U.S. District Court Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. has dismissed a lawsuit brought by an Elmira wedding photographer who refused to provide services at an event she said violated her religious beliefs.
Wedding photographer Emilee Carpenter filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General’s Office (OAG), the state’s Human Rights Division and the Chemung County Prosecutor’s Office in October, saying the laws anti-discrimination New Yorkers violated his right to refuse to photograph an event that conflicts with his religious beliefs.
The United States District Court for the Western District of New York has agreed with New York State Attorney General Letitia James and ruled that all New Yorkers have the right to equal access to the public market by under the law.
Carpenter was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – an Arizona-based nonprofit rights advocacy group – and claimed that New York’s public housing law violated his right to accept or refuse to photograph these events.
Judge Geraci rejected his demands, noting that individuals are entitled to the same access to the public market that everyone else is granted despite Carpenter’s claim for religious freedom. In addition, Justice Geraci made it clear in his ruling that all businesses claiming to serve the public must serve all of the public.
The Defending Freedom Alliance said in its decision in Emilee Carpenter Photography v. James, the United States District Court for the Western District of New York relied on the same unprecedented logic that the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit used in its July decision in another ADF case, 303 Creative v. Elenis.
In this case, the 10th Circuit has ruled that the government can force web designer and graphic designer Lorie Smith to express messages she disagrees with because it creates a “personalized and unique” phrase. Likewise, in its recent ruling, the Federal District Court ruled that New York City can compel Carpenter to promote messages that violate his beliefs because his photography “is the product of his unique artistic style and vision.”
“The court ruling continues on the government’s dangerous path forcing artists to deliver messages that violate their religious beliefs – or imposing heavy fines, shutting down their businesses or throwing them in jail,” said Jonathan Scruggs, senior lawyer for ADF. “Artists like Emilee (Carpenter) and Lorie Smith in Colorado are constitutionally protected to live and work freely according to their religious beliefs.
“We sincerely hope that the Supreme Court will hear Lorie’s case and protect the constitutional freedoms of all Americans, including creative professionals like Lorie and Emilee.”