Lawsuit to Protect Photographers Right to Free Speech

The Maine Writer

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Emilee Carpenter is a professional photographer who has been photographing weddings since 2012. Carpenter opened her business, Emilee Carpenter Photography, in 2019. Emilee is a Christian who uses her photography services to celebrate and promote her view of marriage. Her belief is that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and she cannot create photographs celebrating a view of marriage that challenges this belief.

Carpenter's ability to operate her photography business and create art that is consistent with her beliefs is being threatened by public accommodation laws. Emilee is a New York photographer, and the New York public accommodation law is part of the New York State Human Rights Law. Hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, bars, public buildings, retail stores, and other places of public accommodation are prohibited by law from denying goods or services to people with protected characteristics.

The protected characteristics are creed or religion, disability, gender identity or expression, marital status, military status, national origin, race/color, sex, and sexual orientation. Places of public accommodation are prohibited from discriminating based on any of the characteristics listed and must make their goods and services accessible.

New York's public accommodation law will force Emilee to promote views of marriage that violate her religious beliefs. The law will put her in a situation where she has to choose whether to violate her religious beliefs, violate the state law, or close her photography studio.

Emilee Carpenter filed a lawsuit in April 2021 to challenge the New York law and to protect her right to promote views about marriage that are consistent with her faith. The First Amendment protects Carpenter's freedom to decide the messages she celebrates through her photography, and the New York law compels her to violate that freedom. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit heard the arguments in the case in September 2022, and a decision from the court should be coming soon.

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