‘The government has no power to force people to express messages that violate their deepest convictions…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison vowed to take two wedding videographers back to court after the 8th Circuit ruled that the state cannot force Carl and Angel Larsen to make films for weddings that violate their religious beliefs.
Ellison and Rebecca Lucero, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, wrote an op-ed for the Minnesota Star-Tribune objecting to the court decision.
“Business owners’ free speech and beliefs are already fully protected under the First Amendment,” they wrote. “What they want is a license to discriminate against LGBTQ folks. But that’s a can of worms that has unintended consequences for everyone, no matter who you are.”
The Larsens preemptively sued the state of Minnesota over its Human Rights Act, a law that could be used to force them to create weddings for LGBT couples, which they said would be a violation of their religious belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman.
Ellison claimed that although the Larsens “have the right to believe whatever they want to believe,” they do not have “the right to deny you the same service they’re offering to everyone else.”
“Refusing to provide that service would be against the law,” he explains. “The Minnesota Human Rights Act doesn’t tell people what they can believe. No law can—that’s fully protected for every American under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The law just says that if someone offers a service to the general public, they have to offer it to everyone.”
The 8th Circuit’s ruling was “narrow,” Ellison argued, citing one judge’s dissenting opinion, which claimed that “… what may start in the wedding business—‘we don’t do interracial weddings,’ ‘we don’t film Jewish ceremonies,’ and so on—likely will not end there.”
Instead of taking the 8th Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court—which will likely rule against Ellison given “the current makeup of that court,” he said—Ellison will take the Larsens back to federal district court.
Alliance Defending Freedom, the nonprofit litigation group representing the Larsens, said they have nothing to fear from Ellison.
“Carl and Angel won a great free speech victory at the 8th Circuit, which rightly affirmed that the government has no power to force people to express messages that violate their deepest convictions,” senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement. “This principle protects everyone.”
Thus, he said, state can’t threaten the Larsens with jail time for refusing to promote a view of marriage that violates their beliefs.
“We look forward to securing a final victory that prevents the state from using its power to banish people of faith from the public square,” Tedesco said.
Ellison vowed to continue enforcing the unconstitutional Human Rights Act while the case made its way through the court system.
“We’re going to keep honoring the First Amendment, which allows everyone to believe what they want, and keep enforcing the Human Rights Act, which allows every Minnesotan to receive the same services in public no matter who they are,” he wrote.