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St. Cloud wedding videographers sue to discriminate against gay couples

Angel and Carl Larsen's suit could bring a new version of the Old South to Minnesota, allowing religious supremacy to be used to refuse all manner of services.

Angel and Carl Larsen's suit could bring a new version of the Old South to Minnesota, allowing religious supremacy to be used to refuse all manner of services. Shari Gross

The word “command” doesn't imply much wiggle rooms. But some Christians take the “love thy neighbor” portion of the 10 Commandments rather loosely. Count Carl and Angel Larsen among them.

They own Telescope Media, a wedding videography company in St. Cloud. Since their view of marriage is a “sacrificial covenant between one man and one woman," they're suing the state of Minnesota for the right to refuse service to gay couples.

At issue is the state's Human Rights Act. The law offers no exemptions in cases like these, since religious supremacy has been the principle culprit behind much of Minnesota's darker past. It's been used to discriminate against Jews, Catholics, Muslims and others, not to mention all manner of ethnicities. It was a staple of the Old South, invoked by Protestants to deem blacks inferior.

Yet the Larsens want to relive this grand tradition, believing gay couples inferior. So they sued in 2016 for the right to reject gay weddings.

A year later, their suit was dismissed by Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim, who likened their wish to post an an anti-gay notice on their website as akin to “a 'White Applicants Only' sign."

But as Donald Trump's appointees begin to fill the federal bench, religious supremacy is returning to fashion.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who also wished to reject service to gay couples. Since baking is an inherently creative act, the court said, serving people one finds repulsive violates free expression.

Last Friday, the U.S. District Court of Appeals in St. Paul followed, allowing the Larsens' suit to go forward, since wedding videography is an equally expressive act, and Minnesota's law compels the "the Larsens to speak favorably of same-sex marriage.” The three-judge panel is led by David Stras, another Trump appointee.

In her dissent, Judge Jane Kelly likely described the coming lay of the land: "And what may start in the wedding business — 'we don't do interracial weddings,' 'we don't film Jewish ceremonies,' and so on — likely will not end there. Nothing stops a business owner from using today's decision to justify new forms of discrimination tomorrow."

It appears the Old South is coming back to life.