The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to definitively rule on whether religious business owners can break anti-discrimination laws by refusing to serve LGBTQ people on the basis of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” But a case currently in front of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could easily give the U.S. Supreme Court another chance to get it right (or horribly wrong).
This case involves Carl and Angel Larsen (pictured above), a married straight Christian couple from Minnesota who runs a videography business called Telescope Media Group.
In 2016, the Larsens sued the state’s human rights commission saying that Minnesota’s public accommodation laws requiring them to do business with same-sex couples might violate their constitutional right to freedom of religion, requiring them to promote “a conception of marriage that directly contradicts their religious beliefs.”
Keep in mind: No same-sex couples had actually asked the Larsens to shoot their wedding. The couple preemptively sued, and the reason is apparent when you find out who’s legally representing them: Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
That’s right, ADF, a right-wing legal organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The ADF has equated homosexuality with child rape, pushed for the criminalization of gay sex in countries around the world and thinks that the “homosexual agenda” wants to destroy Christianity.
The ADF regularly takes on cases to challenge LGBTQ rights around America, and so they’re supporting the Larsens’ case for the exact same reason.
And if you need proof of the Larsens’ anti-LGBTQ bias, you have only to look at their reasoning. They said they wouldn’t shoot same-sex weddings for the same reason that they wouldn’t shoot videos depicting “sexual immorality, the ‘destruction of unborn children,’ racism or racial division, inciting violence or degrading women.”
Yep. Being asked to film a same-sex marriage is similar to being asked to film a live abortion or someone beating a woman.
It’s true that the Larsens, and businesses like theirs, can face fines and jail time for refusing to treat all customers equally. But allowing businesses to treat LGBTQ and heterosexual customers differently sets up a dangerous slippery slope.
Refusing service may not seem like a big deal when it comes to wedding-related businesses —go get your cake somewhere else, right? But it could literally mean life-or-death when it comes to other businesses, like if a pharmacist denied medicine to an LGBTQ person based on their religious beliefs, something that actually happened earlier this year.
While the three-person Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to issue their ruling in two to three months, the case could easily make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and help determine the future of LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of an anti-gay baker who refused to sell a same-sex wedding cake, but only because the Colorado Human Right Commission had expressed anti-religious sentiment during their proceedings against the baker.
The court also had a second chance in a case involving a religious flower shop owner who refused an arrangement for a gay wedding. But the court asked the state of Washington to re-examine whether their human rights commission had expressed any anti-religious bias in that case too. There’s no word so far on how that case is going.
As such, the Larsen case could give the court their third chance.