A Christian couple who refused to video a same-sex wedding have won their court case, possibly setting another precedent for the nation. With the ruling the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals halted the expanding reach of nondiscrimination laws by ruling that the Christian videographers in Minnesota who believe in traditional marriage, can’t be compelled under the state’s aggressive human rights law to produce videos of same-sex weddings.
In Telescope Media Group v. Lucero, decided Aug. 23, a three-judge panel of the appeals court found, on appeal from the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, that “even antidiscrimination laws, as critically important as they are, must yield to the Constitution.”
To force Carl and Angel Larsen, a married couple with eight children, to film a ceremony that goes against their conscience would be to unconstitutionally force speech upon them, according to the majority opinion written by Judge David Stras, an appointee of President Donald Trump, and concurred in by Judge Bobbie E. Shepherd, an appointee of former President George W. Bush.
Attorneys for Minnesota argued that the Minnesota Human Rights Act, violations of which may be punished with fines or imprisonment, required not only that the Larsens produce both “opposite-sex- and same-sex-wedding videos, or none at all,” but that such videos must place both kinds of weddings “in an equally ‘positive’ light.”
According to Minnesota, failing to do so constitutes unlawful discrimination against prospective customers based on their sexual orientation, Stras wrote.
The Larsens view marriage as a “sacrificial covenant between one man and one woman,” Stras wrote for the court. The couple works with all people, “regardless of their race, sexual orientation, sex, religious beliefs, or any other classification,” but will not accept requests for services that contradict their religious beliefs.
This includes any services that, in their view, “contradict biblical truth; promote sexual immorality; support the destruction of unborn children; promote racism or racial division; incite violence; degrade women; or promote any conception of marriage other than as a lifelong institution between one man and one woman.”
In the words of the Larsens, the videos they shoot “capture the background stories of the couples’ love leading to commitment, the [couples’] joy[,] … the sacredness of their sacrificial vows at the altar, and even the following chapters of the couples’ lives.” The husband-and-wife team believes that the videos, which they post and share online, will give them access to “a broader audience to achieve maximum cultural impact” and “affect the cultural narrative regarding marriage.”
The only member of the three-judge panel to dissent was appointed by Barack Obama.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal interest group based in Scottsdale, Arizona, represented the Larsens in the case. ADF was created to defend religious liberty from “the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its allies[, which have] used the courts to drive out public expressions of faith and to radically change America into something the Founding Fathers never intended,” the group states on its website.