Federal Judge Rules “Christian” Photographer Can Reject Gay Couples Despite Ban on LGBT Discrimination
A federal judge appointed by Donald Trump to the Western District of Kentucky ruled Friday that a “Christian” photographer in Louisville can turn away same-sex couples despite the city’s ordinance prohibiting LGBT discrimination.
U.S. District Judge Justin Reed Walker issued an injunction blocking the city from enforcing its Fairness Ordinance against Chelsey Walker, who claims she can only photograph weddings between a man and a woman due to her religious beliefs.
“Just as gay and lesbian Americans ‘cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,’” Walker wrote, quoting the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, “neither can Americans ‘with a deep faith that requires them to do things passing legislative majorities might find unseemly or uncouth.’ Her photography is art” and “art is speech,” adding that the government can’t compel speech when it violates someone’s religious beliefs. Although photography is wordless, he wrote, “so too is refusing to salute the flag or marching in a parade, both of which the Supreme Court has said are protected forms of speech.”
Walker a protégé of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, served as a law clerk to then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He then clerked for Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court of the United States.
“Judge Walker is just the latest in a long line of judicial nominees championed by right wing organizations like the Federalist Society for their zealous opposition to the Affordable Care Act, as well as other extremist views, jeopardizing the lives of LGBT people and others who need access to fair and impartial courts,” Lambda Legal wrote.