By D. C. Saturday August 24 2019
- Videos are protected speech under the First Amendment
- State can’t prevent hurtful speech
Minnesota’s antidiscrimination law takes a back seat to the First Amendment rights of videographers who don’t want to film same-sex weddings, the Eighth Circuit said August 23.
Minnesota doesn’t meet the legal standard of having a ‘compelling State interest‘ in regulating ‘discriminatory or hurtful’ speech, the opinion by Judge David R. Stras said.
Christian videographers Carl and Angel Larsen say they’ll gladly work with same-sex couples. They just don’t want to film their weddings, the court said.
Instead, the couple wants to make videos of weddings that promote their religious view that marriage is a “sacrificial covenant between one man and one woman.”
According to Courthouse News:
“Carl and Angel Larsen are the husband-and-wife team behind Telescope Media Group. Though they challenged the Minnesota Human Rights Act as unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge John Tunheim in Minneapolis dismissed their case after finding that their professional policy of promoting marriage as a bond between one man and one woman was akin to posting a sign that said ‘white applicants only‘.”
Reversing Friday, a divided three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit emphasized that the Larsens have a First Amendment right “to choose when to speak and what to say.”
“Even antidiscrimination laws, as critically important as they are, must yield to the Constitution,” U.S. Circuit Judge David Stras wrote for the majority. “And as compelling as the interest in preventing discriminatory conduct may be, speech is treated differently under the First Amendment.”
Stras cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1995 landmark decision in Hurley vs. Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, which held that private organizations, even if they were planning on and had permits for a public demonstration, were permitted to exclude groups if those groups presented a message contrary to the one the organizing group wanted to convey.
“In short, the court drew the line exactly where the Larsens ask us to here: to prevent the government from requiring their speech to serve as a public accommodation for others,” Stras concluded.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the plaintiffs, lauded the decision out of St. Louis.
“This is a significant win. The government shouldn’t threaten filmmakers with fines and jail time to force them to create films that violate their beliefs,” ADF senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement.
“Carl and Angel work with all people; they just don’t create films promoting all messages. That’s why we’re pleased that the 8th Circuit has affirmed that the Larsens’ films are fully protected speech and that the state lacks a compelling interest to force them to express messages through their films that violate their deeply held convictions.”