ST. PAUL — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero late Wednesday, Oct. 2, announced they would challenge a St. Cloud video company's effort to refuse to film same-sex weddings based on its owners' deeply-held religious beliefs.
In a news release, Ellison and Lucero said they would fight the case in federal district court rather than appealing the decision to the full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or to the Supreme Court.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a split decision in August reinstated Carl and Angel Larsen's lawsuit seeking protection against a Minnesota law which they say would require them to film same-sex couples' weddings despite their deeply-held religious objections.
The decision reversed a lower court's ruling and said the couple has the standing to ask the lower court to prevent the state from enforcing a human rights law against them based on their First Amendment right to free speech.
The Larsens run a Christian filmmaking business called Telescope Media Group. In 2016, they said they hoped to take up making videos of marriages between a man and a woman “to convey messages that promote aspects of their sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
Ellison and Lucero said they worried appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court with its current composition, given the limited record in the case, could play into the hands of the conservative legal groups backing the case. So they opted to fight the case in federal circuit court.
“We think everyone, no exceptions, should be able to live with the same dignity and respect we want for ourselves and our families. That’s just common decency,” Ellison and Lucero said. “Telescope wants to breach common decency on the grounds of ‘free speech.’ But their right to believe what they want is already fully protected. What they’re asking for is a license to discriminate against LGBTQ folks that could open up a can of worms for everyone.”
Until the case is taken up, they said the state would continue granting Minnesotans their First Amendment rights to their beliefs and enforcing the Human Rights Act's requirement to offer public services to all.
The couple in August said they wanted to serve everyone but wanted to be able to honor their religious beliefs without legal penalties.
“Angel and I serve everyone," Carl Larsen said in a statement. "We just can’t produce films promoting every message."