St. Cloud filmmakers bring case against filming same-sex weddings to appeals court

A legal case that could have national implications is now in the hands of appellate judges in Minnesota. 

A couple from St. Cloud that owns a Christian-based video production company is arguing they should not be forced to provide wedding video services to same-sex couples. 

Carl and Angel Larsen originally sued Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey in 2016, when they were hoping to expand their company, Telescope Media Group, into the growing wedding industry. 

“Every story we tell magnifies Jesus like a telescope. Hence the name of our business, Telescope Media Group,” Carl Larsen said. 

The Larsens argued Minnesota law would violate their first amendment rights by requiring them to film wedding ceremonies for all couples. 

That lawsuit was dismissed by a lower court last year and Tuesday morning, both sides presented oral arguments to a three-judge panel with the U.S. Eight Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“State officials say that if we express stories consistent with our belief about marriage, they'll force us to tell stories about marriage that violate those beliefs under threat of steep fines and even going to jail,” Carl Larsen said outside the Federal Court Building in downtown St. Paul.

“The state's position in this case is that conduct matters, and that when you are selling goods and services you should sell goods and services to all people in the state of Minnesota,” said Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey. 

Alliance Defending Freedom, the organization representing the Larsens, claims they could face punitive damages up to $25,000, a criminal penalty of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail if they break state law. 

“How far can the government go when it comes to marriage? Can they force people to promote ideas about marriage that violate their beliefs? So, this is a very important case,” said Jeremy Tedesco, Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The organization also represented a cake-maker in Colorado who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The baker’s case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the court ruled in his favor. 

“If we win, everyone wins. The ability to live and work according to your convictions without fear of government punishment is a freedom everyone should be able to enjoy,” Carl Larsen said. 

“Everyone should have the right to be protected under the law when they buy goods and services,” Lindsey said. 

The appellate court is expected to hand down a decision in the next few months.