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St. Cloud videographers seeking to avoid gay weddings will appeal

Carl and Angel Larsen talk about their beliefs during an interview Dec. 7 with the St. Cloud Times. Dave Schwarz / St. Cloud Times

MINNEAPOLIS — The owners of a St. Cloud video production company who sought the right to turn away same-sex customers said Thursday, Sept. 21, that they'll appeal after a federal judge dismissed their lawsuit.

Carl and Angel Larsen were looking to add wedding videography to the list of services offered by their business, Telescope Media Group. They filed suit against the state in December arguing that a provision of the Minnesota Human Rights Act unconstitutionally prohibited them from refusing service to homosexual couples.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit Wednesday.

The Larsens, who said through their attorneys that they will appeal the decision, argued in court that the law was "a state effort to stamp out expression opposing same-sex marriage."

Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim rejected that argument in his ruling, siding with the state's assertion that the law does not infringe on the Larsen's First Amendment rights.

In response to the Larsen's expressed interest in adding information to their company's website notifying customers that they wouldn't serve same-sex couples, Tunheim said that would be "conduct akin to a 'White Applicants Only' sign."

"Posting language on a website telling potential customers that a business will discriminate based on sexual orientation is part of the act of sexual orientation discrimination itself," Tunheim's ruling reads. "As conduct carried out through language, this act is not protected by the First Amendment."

Jeremy Tedseco, an attorney for the national Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, represented the Larsens at trial and said the group plans to appeal to the Eighth U.S. District Court of Appeals.

"Tolerance is a two-way street," Tedesco said in a statement. "Creative professionals who engage in the expression of ideas shouldn't be threatened with fines and jail simply for having a particular point of view about marriage that the government may not favor."

Alliance Defending Freedom is also representing a Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, who has a similar case pending review by the U.S. Supreme Court after the baker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Jonathan Scruggs, who also represents the Larsens as an attorney with Alliance, said he thinks this case sets up very well on appeal — not just for the 8th Circuit, but perhaps the Supreme Court as well.

"In this situation, what you have is a law requiring a film production studio to create films that violate their beliefs," Scruggs said. "That is a direct assault on the first amendment, and really the rights of all Americans to operate their businesses and create expression in accordance with their beliefs."

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