Minnesotans May be Forced to Serve LGBT Weddings

Seattle City Hall on first day of gay marriage in Washington. Photo by Dennis Bratland (CC BY-SA 3.0)

ST. CLOUD, Minn. – A preemptive lawsuit designed to prevent the State of Minnesota from forcing businesses to serve same-sex weddings was dismissed by a federal judge Wednesday.

St. Cloud couple Carl and Angel Larsen sued Minnesota’s Commissioner of Human Rights Kevin Lindsey and Attorney General Lori Swanson. The couple currently runs a videography business and plans to expand their business to include wedding videography.

Taking lessons from punishments of bakeries, pizzerias, and florists who have been forced to comply, the Larsens sought a preliminary injunction against a provision of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). The provision prohibits discrimination by businesses, and the Larsens believe this infringes upon their First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech. They intended to include a statement on their website saying they would only serve at heterosexual weddings.

In his ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim likened such a posting to an employer having a sign saying “White Applicants Only.” He ruled that a ban on such language is related to a business owner’s conduct rather than their speech, and is therefore more able to be regulated.

“Posting language on a website telling potential customers that a business will discriminate based on sexual orientation is part of the act of sexual orientation discrimination itself; as conduct carried out through language, this act is not protected by the First Amendment,” Tunheim wrote.

The Larsens have been represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is also involved in number of other high-profile Freedom of Religion Cases. This includes the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. That case will be heard by the United States Supreme Court this fall.

Alliance Defending Freedom posted a statement on their website saying they and the Larsens plan to appeal their case.

“People should have the freedom to disagree on critical matters of conscience, which is why everyone, regardless of their view of marriage, can support the Larsens,” ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco said in the statement. “The same government that can force them to violate their faith and conscience can force any one of us to do the same. That’s why we plan to appeal this ruling to the 8th Circuit.”

Anders Koskinen