Appellate Court Permits Religion-Based Discrimination In Minn. Videographer Case.

A federal appeals court in late August ruled that a Minnesota firm that videotapes weddings and other events may cite religious beliefs in refusing to serve LGBTQ people.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in Telescope Media Group v. Lucero that the firm's work is "expressive," and thus protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.

The case came about after Carl and Angel Larsen, the owners of a videography company called Telescope Media in St. Cloud, sued in opposition to the Minnesota Human Rights Act, legislation that protects customers from businesses discriminating against them based on their race, religion, sex and sexual orientation, among other protected characteristics.

The owners asserted that due to their fundamentalist Christian beliefs, they could film weddings for opposite-sex couples only and would deny that same service to same-sex couples. A well-heeled Christian nationalist legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), represented the Larsens in court.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Masterpiece Caheshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that a state agency had engaged in religious discrimination when it fined a baker who refused to make wedding cakes for LGBTQ couples. But that opinion, authored by former Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, was narrow and did not craft a new right for religious business owners to discriminate on the basis of their faith.

By contrast, the Telescope ruling, written by Judge David Stras, an appointee of President Donald Trump, was much broader. Stras ruled that the company's business of creating videos is, "in a word, speech." And because it is speech, the owners have a First Amendment right to turn away any customer whose equal treatment would imply a message with which the owners disagree - here, the validity of a marriage that is not between one man and one woman. Like a newspaper...

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