Trump’s conservative judicial appointees continue to spread the idea that things like wedding cakes constitute “art” and are therefore exempt from anti-discrimination laws. Go figure.
Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Justin Reed Walker ruled on Friday that it’s perfectly constitutional for a Christian photographer in Louisville, Kentucky to refuse service to same-sex couples even though the city has an ordinance prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination and even though no gay couples have actually asked the photographer to take pictures of anything for them.
In his ruling, the judge wrote that “Christian” photographer Chelsey Walker cannot be compelled to take photos of same-sex weddings, even though she offers her photography as a public business, because her photos are “art” and art is a form of “speech.” Therefore, no government can force people to make any speech against their will. The judge said that requiring her to take photos of gay weddings would also go against Walker’s religious beliefs.
“Just as gay and lesbian Americans cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,” the judge wrote, “neither can Americans ‘with a deep faith that requires them to do things passing legislative majorities might find unseemly or uncouth.”
In 2019, Nelson asked the Louisville District Court to issue an injunction ensuring that she never has to comply with the city’s Fairness Ordinance. She said she worried about being sued if she marketed her business and the city became aware of her refusal to shoot same-sex marriages. She was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing Christian legal defense counsel that is regularly behind anti-LGBTQ lawsuits meant to challenge any expanse of non-discrimination laws or queer civil rights.
If the judge’s legal “reasoning” sounds familiar, it’s because it’s nearly the exact same argument that the Trump Administration used in a U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief in defense of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Colorado bakery that in 2012 refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.
“An artist cannot be forced to paint, a musician cannot be forced to play and a poet cannot be forced to write,” the Department of Justice’s amicus brief said. The brief asserted that public accommodation non-discrimination laws (like Lousiville’s Fairness Ordinance) are supposed to apply only to goods and services (like dispensing pharmaceutical medicine or renting hotel rooms) and not to artistic creations that are “expressly communicative” like wedding cakes and wedding photography.
As Hornet explained, “If public accommodation laws require a baker to make a cake for a gay wedding, the brief argues, then they could also potentially force a freelance designer to design fliers for a neo-Nazi group or the Westboro Baptist Church.”
The brief went on to say that opposing racism and misogyny is different from opposing homophobia because the Supreme Court has not yet ruled that “eradicating private individuals’ opposition to same-sex marriage is a uniquely compelling interest” — that’s because gay marriage had only been legal nationwide for a few years.
But the fact is that the government does have a compelling interest to uphold the Fourteenth Amendment ensuring that all individuals are treated equally under the law, rather than allowing individuals to deny same-sex couples the same treatment as everyone else.
The case may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is the ADF’s goal. They keep filing these lawsuits in hopes that the conservative-leaning courts will help strike down LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances nationwide.
Written by Daniel Villareal, The New Civil Rights Movement. Photo via NCRM