The U.S. Department of Justice has sided with the Kentucky-based wedding photographer’s First Amendment right to refuse service for same-sex couples, according to an official statement issued by the government agency Thursday.
“The First Amendment forbids the government from forcing someone to speak in a manner that violates individual conscience,” Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said about the ruling. “The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to protect the right of all persons to exercise their constitutional right to speech and expression.”
Louisville resident Chelsey Nelson initially filed her lawsuit against the Jefferson Country Metro Government in U.S. District Court last year over the city’s Fairness Ordinance – which was originally enacted to minimize discrimination based on sexual orientation – saying the law violated her freedom of speech and religion.
Nelson said she refuses to photograph weddings that are “dishonorable to God” in her lawsuit and shared concerns that the two-decade-old, anti-discrimination ordinance could be used against her to enforce compliance.
This new ruling comes two years after Colorado-based, Christian baker Jack Phillips won his suit in the U.S. Supreme Court over his refusal to bake cakes for same-sex couples.