Federal court rejects claim for religious or speech exemption from state public accommodations law for wedding photographer

A federal judge for the Western District of New York has ruled that the state public accommodations statute can be applied to a wedding photographer who refused to provide services for same-sex couples. Carpenter v. James, 2021 WL 5879090 (W.D.N.Y. 2021). On the speech claim, the court assumed that the law compelled speech on the part of the photographer but held that the law only affected speech incidentally in connection with regulation of economic activity and that the law was narrowly tailored to achieve its purposes. The court also held that the provision of photography services did not require the photographer to participate in a religious ceremony.

Note that an Eighth Circuit decision disagrees. Telescope Media Group v. Lucero, 936 F.3d 740 (8th Cir. 2019).