A Kentucky federal judge ruled on Friday that the city of Louisville cannot force a Christian photographer to work a same-sex wedding, citing that the "Constitution does not require a choice between gay rights and freedom of speech."
U.S. District Judge Justin R. Walker determined that Chelsey Nelson, a Christian photographer and blogger, has the legal right to deny services to clients that promote same-sex marriage.
"Just as gay and lesbian Americans 'cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,' neither can Americans ‘with a deep faith that requires them to do things passing legislative majorities might find unseemly or uncouth,'" Walker wrote.
According to a local statute, Nelson would face considerable penalties, including court orders and compliance reports, if she refused to work for a gay couple.
The law also forbids Nelson from explaining to current and potential clients how her Christian beliefs influence her artistic direction nor can she post her beliefs on her website or social media accounts.
Christian legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement that Louisville's interpretation of its local ordinance is a "violation of Chelsey's constitutionally protected free speech and freedom of religion."
"Just like every American, photographers and writers like Chelsey should be free to peacefully live and work according to their faith without fear of unjust punishment by the government," ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs argued. "The court was right to halt enforcement of Louisville's law against Chelsey while her case moves forward. She serves everyone. She simply cannot endorse or participate in ceremonies she objects to, and the city has no right to eliminate the editorial control she has over her own photographs and blogs."