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Virginia photographer to court: Stop state from censoring, controlling my artistic work

ADF attorney representing wedding photographer available to media following hearing Friday

Thursday, Jan 14, 2021

WHO: ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, director of the ADF Center for Conscience Initiatives

WHAT: Available for media interviews following court hearing in Updegrove v. Herring

WHEN: Friday, Jan 15, immediately following hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. EST

WHERE: To schedule an interview, contact ADF Media Relations Specialist Bernadette Tasy at (480) 356-0324 or submit a request online

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jonathan Scruggs will be available for media interviews Friday following argument in federal district court in a Virginia photographer’s lawsuit against state officials. The lawsuit challenges a state law, enacted July 1, 2020, that forces Bob Updegrove to use his artistic talents to photograph same-sex weddings if he photographs weddings between one man and one woman. As explained in ADF’s complaint, that law violates foundational rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses.

ADF attorneys have asked the court to enter an injunction halting enforcement of the law against Updegrove while his lawsuit proceeds, and the state has moved to dismiss the case. The court will hear both motions on Friday.

“Photographers, like all other Americans, should be free to peacefully live, work, and create art that’s consistent with their deeply held beliefs—without the fear of government punishment,” said Scruggs, who will argue before the court on behalf of Updegrove. “Because of the state’s interpretation of its law, photographers like Bob face an impossible choice: violate the law and risk bankruptcy, promote views against their faith, or close down. Virginia has a long and important history of protecting constitutional freedoms, and this kind of government hostility toward people of faith has no place in a free society.”

The law also forbids Updegrove from publicly explaining on his studio’s own website the religious reasons why he only celebrates wedding ceremonies between one man and one woman. Virginia considers such communications “discriminatory.” The law threatens initial fines of up to $50,000 and then $100,000 per additional violation, along with court orders that could force Updegrove to photograph events against his conscience if he wants to stay in business.

ADF filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The lawsuit, Updegrove v. Herring, challenges Va. Code § 2.2-3904(B).
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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