Trump admin again sides w/ anti-LGBTQ business, Alliance Defending Freedom

She hasn't even been asked to shoot a same-sex wedding, but Kentucky photographer Chelsey Nelson is in court trying to stop the possibility that she someday might be. Partnering with the viciously anti-LGBTQ attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom, Ms. Nelson is filing what is known as a "pre-enforcement challenge," a legal tactic that the ADF has turned to in recent years to usurp existing civil rights laws before they ever even come into contention.

According to The Courier-Journal:

Chelsey Nelson, owner of Chelsey Nelson Photography, alleges in her lawsuit that the city is using “the threat of limitless damages” to force her to “create photographs for, blog about, and participate in solemn ceremonies she disagrees with — same-sex wedding ceremonies."...The suit asks the U.S. District Court in Louisville to block city officials from enforcing the [20-year-old Fairness Ordinance] on the grounds that its stipulations "violate the United States Constitution’s First Amendment protections for speech, for association, for press, for free exercise of religion, and against establishment of religion and the 14th Amendment protections for due process." 

FULL STORY: The Courier-Jorunal

On its face, this is just more of what we'd expect from ADF. Ever since they lost their fight to discriminate against same-sex couples from legally marrying in the first place, they have moved on to ensuring that every single element of our weddings--from the invitations to the licensing to the flowers--are as burdensome as possible. It's yet another selfish and self-centered display from a movement that has always positioned itself as the center of the universe, with the rest of us being told we must bend to their self-victimized whims. The ADF's strategy should be a non-starter, frankly, with these "pre-enforcement challenges" laughed out of court.

Except, of course, we have an administration that is not only willing, but actually eager, to do this movement's bidding. Which is precisely why the Trump Department of Justice has taken the unnecessary and even unusual step of weighing in on this case in favor of the discriminatory photographer:

Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest Defending Photographer on Free Speech Claim

The Department of Justice today filed a Statement of Interest in federal court in Kentucky, explaining that a Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government law, which requires a photographer to photograph same-sex weddings in violation of her religious objections, violates the U.S. Constitution.  The United States’ brief explains that the photographer, Chelsey Nelson, is likely to succeed on her claim that requiring her to photograph weddings against her conscience constitutes government-compelled speech that violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment forbids the government from forcing someone to speak in a manner that violates individual conscience,” said Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to protect the right of all persons to exercise their constitutional right to speech and expression.”


The truth, of course, is that this is not really about free speech at all. Just like any civil rights law, Louisville's Fairness Ordinance simply protects locals from discrimination, in this case on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While religious groups and nonprofits are entitled to certain exemptions, someone who sets up shop and purports to do business with the public at large is expected to comply with all civil rights laws. This concept didn't used to be controversial, except among prejudiced extremists.

But now, in our world where anti-LGBTQ conservatives are trying to turn everything into "speech" and find carve outs in terms of what sort of business practice constitutes a job and which constitutes "expression," the once concrete notion of turning away customers based on who they are has been falsely complicated. Now, and increasingly so, groups like the ADF are insisting that any sort of rejection of service is perfectly fine, so long as the customer is an LGBTQ person and the business owner claims faith as their reason for the rejection.

It is truly chilling to have a presidential administration that is helping our community's worst opponents muddy these waters for the public at large. The ADF is an organization whose founder and president of twenty-four years, Alan Sears, wrote a book titled The Homosexual Agenda -- a book that went further to attack LGBTQ rights than just about any book in the modern canon. The ADF founder's book directly compares the LGBTQ movement’s advocacy to what "Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany, to get the American public on their side" and insists that “we cannot stand idly by while many well-meaning individuals provide spiritual cover for and enable those who are caught in and/or promote this destructive behavior [of homosexuality].” This is the viewpoint from which the ADF was founding, and by which it has always operated. (*Note: The entire contents of Sears’ exceedingly anti-LGBTQ book can be read/searched at this link)

The ADF has also called marriage equality "a rebellion against God by a small band of activists.” The ADF for years ran a so-called "Day of Truth," which told high school students that LGBTQ people can and should "change." The ADF ontinues to promote scientifically discredited "conversion therapy" in court, recently arguing that banning the cruel practice “will ultimately harm children with unwanted same-sex attraction by depriving them of therapy that could help them achieve their therapeutic goals.

I could go on for hours. When it comes to deep and utter contempt for LGBTQ rights, it gets no worse than the ADF. In recent years they have worked desperately to mask who they really are, knowing that their recent Supreme Court battles would shine a brighter spotlight on their work. But nothing has changed. This organization is helping this young photographer in 2020 not because of "free speech" or because they are particularly concerned about "artistic expression." They are pushing this case for the same reason they have pushed anything they have done for the past three decades: because they do not believe LGBTQ people should be LGBTQ people. They fundamentally believe, and argue, that we should be "converted," so there is not even the first possibility that they would like to see us in wedding photographs.

And it's the Trump administration who has now become the strongest, most connected, most authoritative ally in the organization's twenty-seven year history. Even President Bush was not such a friend during the height of his Federal Marriage Amendment push! The Trump administration has weighed in favorably on almost all of ADF's recent court battles and Trump administration officials have been speaking at ADF meetings ever since taking office.

We know how far the ADF would like to take its goals. Since they are so chummy, it's more than fair to wonder how far their friends within the Trump administration would like to take their own anti-LGBTQ agenda.