ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Minnesota’s Attorney General and Human Rights Commssioner announced Thursday they will take a St. Cloud videography LGBTQ discrimination case to federal court.
Attorney General Keith Elision and Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said they will fight the case against Telescope Media in federal court instead of appealing an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.
Currently, Telescope Media does not make videos for any straight or LGBTQ couples, but says it intends to enter the wedding video business. According to the Attorney General’s office, the company wants the right to deny the wedding video service to same-sex couples, which Ellison says is a violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
“Telescope wants to breach common decency on the grounds of ‘free speech.’ But their right to believe what they want is already fully protected. What they’re asking for is a license to discriminate against LGBTQ folks that could open up a can of worms for everyone,” said Ellison and Lucero in a joint statement.
While the company has not yet turned down any LGBTQ customers, it filed a preemptive lawsuit against the Human Rights Commissioner's Office in December 2016, alleging that requiring their business to offer wedding video services to LGBTQ customers violates its rights to free speech, free exercise of religion and more.
"Carl and Angel [Larsen] won a great free speech victory at the 8th Circuit, which rightly affirmed that the government has no power to force people to express messages that violate their deepest convictions," said Jeremy Tedesco, the senior counsel handling the case for Telescope Media.
In September 2017, a district court dismissed all of Telescope’s claims. Telescope appealed and won a split, 2-1 decision in August 2019 in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court reversed the lower court’s dismissal of Telescope’s free speech and free exercise of religion claims.
Ellison and Lucero explained their decision to take the case to federal court, saying they want the federal court to re-establish the facts in the case instead of appealing the old one to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The Attorney General and the Human Rights Commissioner released the following statement:
Minnesotans are decent people. We think everyone, no exceptions, should be able to live with the same dignity and respect we want for ourselves and our families. That’s just common decency. Telescope wants to breach common decency on the grounds of ‘free speech.’ But their right to believe what they want is already fully protected. What they’re asking for is a license to discriminate against LGBTQ folks that could open up a can of worms for everyone.
We could have appealed the Eighth’s Circuit’s divided decision to the Supreme Court, but with the limited facts currently on record and the current composition of the court, that’s what Telescope and the extremist legal-advocacy group representing them want us to do. Instead, we’re taking the case back to federal district court, where we can establish a set of actual facts that are based in reality, not the fairy tale that Telescope is trying to tell.
In the meantime, we’re going to keep honoring the First Amendment, which allows everyone to believe what they want no matter how much we may disagree with them, and keep enforcing the Human Rights Act, which allows every Minnesotan to receive the same services in public no matter who they are.
Telescope Media provided the following statement from Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco:
Carl and Angel won a great free speech victory at the 8th Circuit, which rightly affirmed that the government has no power to force people to express messages that violate their deepest convictions. This principle protects everyone. It means the state can’t threaten the Larsens with jail time for declining to create a film promoting a view of marriage that violates their religious beliefs. It also prevents the government from forcing an atheist musician to perform at an evangelical church service or a Democratic speech writer to write speeches for a Republican.
After the Larsens won at the 8th Circuit, the Minnesota attorney general agreed to an order from the court preventing it from enforcing the law against the Larsens while the case proceeds. Carl and Angel are pleased that they will soon be able to enter the marriage industry and produce films that are consistent with their beliefs. We look forward to securing a final victory that prevents the state from using its power to banish people of faith from the public square.