A Christian photographer in Virginia filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn a law demanding that he takes pictures at same-sex weddings. Chris Herring, who owns Chris Herring Photography, is facing fines between $50,000 – $100,000 under the Virginia Values Act, signed in April.
The law will extend existing state non-discrimination protections in public employment, housing and credit to Virginians on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and several other characteristics.
“LGBTQ people in Virginia — and people of color, people of faith, immigrants, women and more — are at last protected from discrimination at work and in their communities,” says Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign in a statement this spring.
“No one should be discriminated against simply because of who they are or whom they love. Right now, as the country and the world deals with an unprecedented pandemic, it is more important than ever to ensure that leaders are looking out for all of us. In this period of uncertainty, it is vital that we are all protected from bias as we earn a living, access housing and healthcare, and seek goods and services.”
Alliance Defending Freedom filed a suit against Virginia’s attorney general and state officials on behalf of Herring June 30.
“Artists shouldn’t be censored, fined, or forced out of business simply for disagreeing with the government’s preferred views,” says ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, director of the ADF Center for Conscience Initiatives. “Because of Virginia’s new law, Chris faces an impossible choice: violate the law and risk bankruptcy, promote views against his faith, or close down. No matter one’s views on marriage, we all lose when bureaucrats can force citizens to participate in religious ceremonies they oppose, speak messages they disagree with and stay silent about beliefs they hold dear.”
The complaint in Chris Herring Photography v. Herring, which ADF attorneys filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, explains how the state law violates various provisions of the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses.