By Brooke Sopelsa
The Department of Justice is backing a Kentucky wedding photographer who is suing the city of Louisville over an ordinance banning local businesses from discriminating against gay customers.
The DOJ’s “statement of interest,” filed this week in federal court, asserts that the photographer, Chelsey Nelson, is likely to succeed in her claim, because requiring her to photograph a “ceremony that violates her sincerely held religious beliefs” — in Nelson’s case, a same-sex wedding — “invades her First Amendment rights.”
“The First Amendment forbids the government from forcing someone to speak in a manner that violates individual conscience,” Eric Dreiband, an assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said in a separate statement Thursday following the filing. “The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to protect the right of all persons to exercise their constitutional right to speech and expression.”
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