Woman faces steep fines for religious writings on her company site

New York attorney general Letitia James (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images) • April 8, 2021 5:30 pm

A New York wedding photographer is taking Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D.) administration to court over state laws that threaten her with fines and jail time for her religious beliefs about marriage.

Emilee Carpenter filed a lawsuit against New York attorney general Letitia James (D.) over state nondiscrimination statutes that Carpenter said compel her to violate her religious beliefs about traditional marriage by making her publicize photos of same-sex weddings on her website. The laws require her to create photograph collections on her website celebrating same-sex weddings because she celebrates opposite-sex weddings. Violating the laws could result in tens of thousands of dollars in fines, the state taking away her business license, or even jail time.

The statutes also forbid Carpenter from publishing any sort of editorial stance explaining her religious beliefs about marriage on her website. Carpenter said in an interview that her beliefs are inseparable from her work as a wedding photographer and that the laws are violating her First Amendment rights.

“My faith has been really integral to me as a person but also to my business and the way I operate it and the artwork I create,” Carpenter said. “My faith is really the lens through which I view my art.”

“Essentially the only options New York state has left me are to violate my faith, violate the law, or to close down my business,” she said. “All artists should be free to choose the messages they promote.”

The lawsuit, filed in a district court in New York, seeks to have the court declare that the nondiscrimination laws are unconstitutionally vague and violate First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

“These laws do not simply dictate what [Carpenter] does; they dictate what she says,” the lawsuit states. “Emilee is already willing to work with clients no matter who they are, including those in the LGBT community. But not satisfied with equal treatment, New York officials demand

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