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ADF attorney available to media Friday following hearing in case of KY photographer, blogger

Lawsuit challenges Louisville law forcing Chelsey Nelson to photograph, write in favor of same-sex weddings

Thursday, Aug 6, 2020

WHO: ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs

WHAT: Available to media following hearing in Chelsey Nelson Photography v. Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

WHEN: Immediately following hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 7

WHERE: To schedule an interview, contact Bernadette Tasy at (480) 356-0324

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs will be available for media interviews following a hearing in federal district court Friday in a Louisville photographer and blogger’s artistic freedom case. Chelsey Nelson—a Kentucky entrepreneur who specializes in photographing, editing, and blogging about weddings—is challenging a city law that forces her to use her artistic talents to promote same-sex wedding ceremonies if she photographs and blogs about weddings between one man and one woman.

The Louisville law also forbids Nelson and her studio, Chelsey Nelson Photography, from publicly explaining on her studio’s own website or social media sites the religious reasons why she only celebrates wedding ceremonies between one man and one woman. Louisville considers such “communications” as indicating that someone’s patronage would be “objectionable, unwelcome, unacceptable, or undesirable” because of sexual orientation.

“Every American, including photographers and writers like Chelsey, should be free to peacefully live and work according to their faith without fear of unjust punishment by the government,” said Scruggs, who directs the ADF Center for Conscience Initiatives. “Chelsey serves everyone. But the Louisville government is trying to compel Chelsey to endorse things that she cannot endorse, to participate in ceremonies she objects to, and to eliminate her editorial control over her photographs and blogs. That’s why we are asking the court to halt enforcement of Louisville’s law against Chelsey while her case moves forward.”

In February, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Louisville Division, in the case, Chelsey Nelson Photography v. Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, in support of Nelson and her artistic freedom.

The lawsuit argues that the Louisville law violates various provisions of the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses. Specifically, the lawsuit challenges Louisville Metro Ordinance § 92.05, a public accommodation law that threatens Nelson with unspecified damages, compliance reports, and court orders to force her to participate in and to create photographs and blogs praising same-sex wedding ceremonies—all because she does the same to celebrate weddings between a man and a woman.

According to an online directory mentioned in the lawsuit, 91 photographers in Louisville and 314 photographers in Kentucky will photograph same-sex weddings—many of whom express support for same-sex marriage by posting statements promoting same-sex marriage on their websites and by displaying photographs of same-sex weddings on their websites, blogs, and social media sites.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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