– A pair of St. Cloud filmmakers plan to appeal a court order
issued Wednesday that dismisses their lawsuit over a state law that allows Minnesota officials to force them to use their artistic talents to promote same-sex marriages if they produce films that celebrate marriage between one man and one woman.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Carl and Angel Larsen and the company they own, Telescope Media Group
, argued before the court in May
against dismissal and in favor of an order that would suspend enforcement of the law against the Larsens while their case proceeds. The court denied that request and ruled in favor of the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which means the Larsens will have to continue censoring their own speech about marriage to avoid violating the law.
“Tolerance is a two-way street. 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,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “Public officials can’t censor filmmakers or demand that they tell stories in film that violate their deepest convictions.”
“People should have the freedom to disagree on critical matters of conscience, which is why everyone, regardless of their view of marriage, can support the Larsens,” Tedesco added. “The same government that can force them to violate their faith and conscience can force any one of us to do the same. That’s why we plan to appeal this ruling to the 8th Circuit.”
Minnesota Department of Human Rights officials have repeatedly stated that private businesses such as the Larsens’ violate the law if they decline to create expression promoting same-sex weddings. Penalties for violation include payment of a civil penalty to the state; triple compensatory damages; punitive damages of up to $25,000; a criminal penalty of up to $1,000; and even up to 90 days in jail.
Specifically, the lawsuit, Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey
, challenges portions of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 363. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has construed that law to force creative professionals like the Larsens to promote objectionable messages even though they gladly serve everyone and decide what stories to tell based on the story’s message, not any client’s personal characteristics.
Renee Carlson, one of nearly 3,200 private attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case for the Larsens and Telescope Media Group.