Story at a glance

  • The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian advocacy group, this week filed an appeal in the case of Emilee Carpenter, a New York photographer who had turned away clients in same-sex relationships.
  • Carpenter’s case was dismissed in December after a federal court said the suit would regulate same-sex couples to “an inferior market than that enjoyed by the public at large.”
  • The ADF has called the court’s decision “Orwellian” and claims it violates Carpenter’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

A conservative Christian advocacy group this week filed an appeal in a case of a New York wedding photographer who claimed she had acted within her right in refusing to photograph same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, on Wednesday filed an appeal to overturn a Federal court ruling which dismissed a lawsuit brought by Emilee Carpenter, claiming the initial ruling had violated Carpenter’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, which protect freedom of speech and religion.

Carpenter last year filed a lawsuit against the New York Office of the Attorney General, state Division of Human Rights, and the Chemung County District Attorney’s Office, claiming New York’s anti-discrimination laws violated her right to reject clients in same-sex partnerships.

She was represented by attorneys for the ADF, a group whose belief system – according to the SPLC – is rooted in anti-LGBTQ+ ideology.

The ADF told Changing America that claims made by the SPLC against the organization, including that it has supported state-enforced sterilization for transgender Europeans and believes a “homosexual agenda” will topple society and undermine traditional Christian values, are “false claims and gross mischaracterizations.”

The ADF has contested its designation as a hate group by the SPLC, and classifies the SPLC’s claims as repeated “smear attacks” against the group.

The SPLC and its designations have been the subject of debate.


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The ADF in a complaint filed in April said Carpenter, as a Christian, “cannot promote certain views on marriage.”

“New York officials demand ideological purity—that Emilee violate her conscience by professing the state’s approved view about marriage,” the group wrote.

A federal court dismissed Carpenter’s case in December, claiming the suit “would relegate [same-sex couples] to an inferior market than that enjoyed by the public at large,” under New York State statutes.

“This court decision is a huge victory in our pursuit to ensure that every New Yorker has equal access and equal protections under the law,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement at the time.

James added that Carpenter in her lawsuit had “wrongly claimed” that New York public accommodations law “violated her right to choose to accept or deny photographing same-sex marriages.”

The ADF in a statement following the December ruling called the court’s decision “Orwellian” and said they intended to appeal.

“The court’s decision continues down a dangerous path of the government compelling artists to speak messages that violate their religious beliefs — or imposing steep fines, closing their businesses, or throwing them in jail,” ADF senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs said.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Jan. 17 to include comments from the Alliance Defending Freedom.


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Published on Jan 14, 2022