St. Cloud couple sues for right to deny business to gays

In the aftermath of the election, the time appears to be right to try to roll back perceived gains of the last few decades and now Minnesota’s Human Rights Act is in the crosshairs.

This is the provision that is now the subject of a pending court case:

It is an unfair discriminatory practice for a person engaged in a trade or business or in the provision of a service:
(1) to refuse to do business with or provide a service to a woman based on her use of her current or former surname; or
(2) to impose, as a condition of doing business with or providing a service to a woman, that a woman use her current surname rather than a former surname; or
(3) to intentionally refuse to do business with, to refuse to contract with, or to discriminate in the basic terms, conditions, or performance of the contract because of a person’s race, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, or disability, unless the alleged refusal or discrimination is because of a legitimate business purpose.

There is a religious provision in the act, but it applies only to religious institution or religious associations and does not prevent them from “taking any action with respect to the provision of goods, services, facilities, or accommodations directly related to the solemnization or celebration of a civil marriage that is in violation of its religious beliefs.”

Carl and Angel Larsen, of St. Cloud, are trying to make a buck, and there’s the rub. They’re photographers and videographers and they don’t want to work with same-sex couples, even in the unlikely chance that same-sex couples want to work with them. So the exemption doesn’t apply to their firm, Telescope Media Group, which exists “to magnify Christ like a telescope,” according to their website.

They’re the test case for a federal suit filed by the group, Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based conservative group, the St. Cloud Times reports.

The suit has been filed as a “pre-enforcement challenge,” indicating the Larsens have never had to deal with the issue; they just don’t want to should it present itself.

The Larsens aren’t talking about their suit, filed yesterday.

But Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, told the Star Tribune the couple has the right to reject business. “We wouldn’t want a Democratic speechwriter being made to write speeches for Trump under force of law or an atheist singer forced to sing Christian hymns at a church. These are choices creative professionals can make. The worry is if the government can take it away from people like the Larsens, what’s to stop it from taking away from everyone else?” he said.

Tedesco’s group produced this video in advance of the lawsuit.

Tedesco’s suit is essentially the same one he filed in New Mexico in 2013 on behalf of a photographer couple who didn’t want to do business with same-sex couples.

The Supreme Court in that state rejected the argument, which recognized the religious beliefs of a couple but said the accommodation comes with citizenship.

In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.

That case never went to federal court. The Supreme Court declined to rule on the New Mexico court’s decision.

Theoretically, at least, the Larsens’ suit could give it another opportunity to do so.