A Christian photographer in Virginia filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday to fight against a law that would require him to work same-sex weddings or face hefty fines.
The Virginia Values Act, enacted in April, prohibits discriminating by sexual orientation in "public places of accommodation," which includes "all places or businesses offering or holding out to the general public goods, services, privileges, [or] advantages."
Breaking the law comes with a $50,000 fine for first-time violations and up to $100,000 for subsequent violations.
Chris Herring, who owns Chris Herring Photography, is being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF said that the new law violates Herring's First Amendment Rights.
"Just as Virginia cannot force atheist newspaper editors to print op-eds promoting Christianity or LGBT artists to design church-flyers condemning same-sex marriage, Virginia cannot force Chris to convey messages he objects to," the suit says. "The First Amendment ensures each of us can choose what we say and what we celebrate, even when the government dislikes it."
The lawsuit alleges that Herring works with LGBT clients in other parts of his business, which includes outdoor adventure photography, as well LGBT photographers working at a wedding between a man and a woman.
"Like most other artists, Chris creates photographs for anyone no matter who they are; he just cannot create some content for anyone no matter who they are – whether that be content promoting pollution, pornography, or certain views about marriage," the suit says. "It's this last editorial judgment, though, that Virginia finds objectionable – threatening to fine Chris into bankruptcy for not creating photographs and blog posts he objects to."
Jonathan Scruggs, ADF senior counsel, said artists should not be censored or fined for disagreeing with the government.
"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," Scruggs said. "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."