Trump's Christian Judges March On - 2020-10-09
In August, Justin Walker, a federal judge in Louisville, Kentucky, issued an unusual order in favor of Chelsey Nelson, a local wedding photographer and blogger. Nelson, a Southern Baptist, claimed in a lawsuit that her Christian faith dictates "that God ordained marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman so that this relationship would point people to the special relationship between God and His bride, the church." Because of this, Nelson contended, she could not provide photography services to same-sex couples, or write about her views of same-sex marriage on her website. Nelson did not report receiving requests for her photography services from any same-sex couples, nor had any government agency investigated Nelson's business or sought to prevent her from writing about her religious views or any other subject. The Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission, which is charged with enforcing the municipality's nondiscrimination ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of, among other factors, sexual orientation and gender identity, had never heard of her.
Nelson had a powerful defender in addition to her lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom, the formidable legal firm that has pioneered the argument that religious freedom collides with LGBTQ rights. The United States Department of Justice filed a "statement of interest" in the case, arguing: "Forcing Ms. Nelson to create expression for and to participate in a ceremony that violates her sincerely held religious beliefs invades her First Amendment rights.
Judge Walker, who had been nominated to the federal bench by President Donald Trump in 2019, waved away the Commission's argument that Nelson had no viable legal claim. He allowed Nelson's suit to go forward and entered an order preemptively barring the government from taking an action it had never even contemplated while the case proceeds. Just like gay and lesbian Americans cannot be treated as second-class citizens under the Constitution, Walker wrote, neither can Christians who oppose the Constitutional right to marry. "America is wide enough for those who applaud same-sex marriage and those who refuse to," he wrote.