A Christian wedding photographer has won a settlement in a lawsuit against the state of Virginia after he refused to shoot same-sex marriages.
Christian wedding photographer Bob Updegrove filed a lawsuit against the state of Virginia over a law that took effect in September 2020 that expanded state anti-discrimination rules to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The Virginia Values Act” required him to shoot same-sex marriages in his wedding photography business. In his lawsuit, Updegrove argued that under the legislation, he would be unable to publicly state anywhere on his website or business social media that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, ultimately violating his right to freedom of expression under the First Amendment.
On Friday, Updegrove reportedly reached a settlement with Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and the Virginia Office of Civil Rights, in which officials agreed not to enforce the law against the photographer if he refuses on religious grounds to provide services for a same-sex wedding.
The settlement followed the Supreme Court decision in the 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis case in July — which determined that the U.S. government cannot compel a business owner’s speech. In this particular case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a web designer who did not want to service same-sex couples because she claimed it infringed on her First Amendment rights.
“Free speech is for everyone. As the Supreme Court recently affirmed in 303 Creative, the government can’t force Americans to say things they don’t believe,” Alliance Defending Freedom, the nonprofit public interest law firm representing Updegrove, says in a press release.
“This victory for Bob underscores how the 303 Creative decision will protect countless Americans from government censorship and coercion. The U.S. Constitution protects his freedom to express his views as he continues to serve clients of all backgrounds and beliefs.”
Last year, a federal judge in Louisville, Kentucky ruled that Christian photographer Chelsey Nelson couldn’t be banned from limiting her wedding photography business to opposite-sex couples.
However, in 2022, a New York federal court’s dismissed a lawsuit filed by Christian wedding photographer, Emilee Carpenter in which she claimed that providing services to same-sex couples goes against her faith and that New York’s human rights law violates her First Amendment rights.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.