Elmira photographer who refused to photograph same-sex marriages files appeal to case dismissal

Around New York State

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – An Elmira photographer who refused to photograph same-sex marriages has filed an appeal after a judge dismissed her case against the Office of the Attorney General, the state Division of Human Rights, and the Chemung County District Attorney’s Office.

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Emilee Carpenter in October by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based, Christian, nonprofit advocacy group, claiming that New York’s anti-discrimination laws violated her right to refuse to photograph same-sex marriages.

The lawsuit also accused New York’s public accommodation laws of violating her First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.

“Artists like Emilee are protected under the Constitution to freely live and work according to their religious beliefs, and it is imperative the 2nd Circuit upholds that fundamental right,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “Emilee happily serves all people; she just cannot promote messages which contradict her religious beliefs, including her views on marriage. A government that crushes an individual’s right to speak and act freely threatens every American’s freedom.”

Carpenter said the laws “substantially burden [her] sincerely held religious beliefs by requiring [her] to either operate [her] expressive business in a way that violates [s] [her] religious beliefs or to close [her] business.”

According to court documents, Carpenter said she would “not accept any projects… celebrating “anything immoral” or “dishonorable to God.”

On Dec. 16 New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced the case’s dismissal by U.S. District Court Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr.

James said the decision was a “huge victory in our pursuit to ensure that every New Yorker has equal access and equal protection under the law.”

“The LGBTQ+ community is an integral part of New York, and no New Yorker should be excluded or turned away from a business or denied a service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Love is love, which is why my office will always fight to ensure that all New Yorkers are treated equally under the law.”

NY Attorney General Letitia James

The full decision on the lawsuit’s dismissal can be read below:

18 News has reached out to the New York State Attorney General’s Office for comment on the appeal.

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