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Federal Judge Rejects Couple's Argument for Refusing Gay Customers

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the owners of a Minnesota video company, who want the right to refuse to shoot gay wedding videos.
Gay Wedding - Exchanging Rings
One groom placing the ring on another man's finger during gay wedding.Getty Images/iStockphoto

A federal judge has dismissed a Minnesota couple's lawsuit challenging a state law over their right to refuse to shoot wedding videos for same-sex couples.

Carl and Angel Larsen, who own a videography company, Telescope Media Group, sued the state's human rights commissioner and attorney general over a provision of the Minnesota Human Rights Act that bars discrimination by businesses, The Star Tribune reported. The St. Cloud couple argued that the law amounted to "a state effort to stamp out expression opposing same-sex marriage," and they sought to post a notice on their company's website that they won't shoot same-sex weddings, based on their religious beliefs.

“There’s a space as it relates to one’s religious beliefs, and there is a space as it relates for being citizens within a democracy."

In his ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim described that as "conduct akin to a 'White Applicants Only' sign" that may be outlawed without infringing on First Amendment rights.

"Posting language on a website telling potential customers that a business will discriminate based on sexual orientation is part of the act of sexual orientation discrimination itself," the judge wrote. "As conduct carried out through language, this act is not protected by the First Amendment."

Jeremy Tedseco, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian group representing the couple, said the group will appeal.

"Tolerance is a two-way street," Tedesco said in a statement. "Creative professionals who engage in the expression of ideas shouldn't be threatened with fines and jail simply for having a particular point of view about marriage that the government may not favor."

Related: Michigan Sued After Gay Couples Rejected for Adoption

Minnesota's commissioner of human rights, Kevin Lindsey, said he was "pleased" with the judge's decision" and said the governor's office would "remain steadfast in ensuring that all people in Minnesota continue to be treated fairly by business owners.”

“There’s a space as it relates to one’s religious beliefs, and there is a space as it relates for being citizens within a democracy," Lindsey told NBC News. "It is important for us to try and figure out how to strike that proper balance between the two."

“Once you engage in commercial activity, you are subject to government regulation” he added. “If the government allows discrimination to occur for that one protected class, it then allows that discrimination to go forward against all protected classes”.

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