A legal dispute concluded with Virginia state officials agreeing to a settlement with a Christian wedding photographer who chose not to promote same-sex marriage through his business.
Bob Updegrove, the aforementioned photographer, initiated a lawsuit against Attorney General Jason Miyares and Christine Lambrou Johnson, director of the state’s Office of Civil Rights, in response to a state law that he argued compelled him to endorse same-sex marriage contrary to his religious beliefs.
The law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), representing Updegrove, declared the settlement a victory following a recent Supreme Court decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. This decision established that the government cannot coerce a business owner to express messages they disagree with.
“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,” counsel for ADF, Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse, stated. “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.”
The Virginia Values Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, was challenged by Updegrove. He contended that the law sought to effectively erase his belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, infringing on his First Amendment rights. After a district court’s March 2021 ruling did not resolve in his favor, Updegrove appealed. The Supreme Court’s subsequent ruling in June 2023 in favor of a Christian web designer who refused to create websites for same-sex marriages set a precedent that influenced the decision to settle Updegrove’s case to avoid further litigation costs.
“We commend Attorney General Miyares and his office for agreeing that state officials cannot punish Bob for exercising his First Amendment rights,” Widmalm-Delphonse added in the press release.
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