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Wis. photographer asking court to shutter enforcement of laws allowing govt control of artistic expression

ADF attorney available to media following federal court hearing Tuesday

Monday, Jul 31, 2017

WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs
WHAT: Available for media interviews following hearing in Amy Lynn Photography Studio v. City of Madison
WHEN: Tuesday, Aug. 1, immediately following hearing, which begins at 2 p.m. CDT
WHERE: Dane County Circuit Court, 215 S. Hamilton St., 5th Floor, Courtroom 5D, Branch 9, Madison

MADISON, Wis. – Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs will be available for media interviews following his arguments in state court Tuesday in favor of halting enforcement of a Madison ordinance and a state law against a photographer while her lawsuit proceeds because the laws allow government control of her artistic expression.

ADF attorneys representing photographer and blogger Amy Lawson, who owns Amy Lynn Photography Studio in Madison, filed suit against the city and against state officials in March. The lawsuit challenges a sweeping local ordinance and a state law that force commissioned creative professionals to promote messages that violate their beliefs.

“Every American, and especially creative professionals, shouldn’t be threatened with punishment for having views that the government doesn’t favor. That’s why we’re asking the court to prevent these laws from being enforced while Amy’s lawsuit moves forward,” Scruggs said. “The government must allow artists the freedom to make their own decisions about which ideas they will use their artistic expression to promote.”

Under these laws, Lawson and her photography studio are required to create photographs and blog posts promoting pro-abortion groups and same-sex marriages if she creates content that promotes pro-life organizations or that celebrates the marriage of one man and one woman. Combined, the laws also forbid creative professionals from posting a statement on their website explaining that the artist reserves discretion not to use their artistic talents to promote messages or causes that are inconsistent with their deepest convictions, even though business owners in these professions frequently decline projects for these reasons. The laws therefore bar Lawson from publishing a statement that says she cannot promote pro-abortion organizations or same-sex marriage because of her religious, political, and artistic beliefs.

“Amy is happy to take photographs of anyone; she simply objects to being forced to participate in events, or promote messages or causes, that she can’t support,” Scruggs said. “Photography and writing are quintessential examples of protected artistic expression and free speech.”

The lawsuit contends that the Madison and state laws violate the Wisconsin Constitution’s guarantees of free speech, freedom of conscience, and equal protection—in addition to other protections. Specifically, the suit challenges portions of Madison Code Sec. 39.03, the city’s public accommodation law, and the related state code provisions.

Madison has construed its law to force creative professionals like Lawson to endorse and promote messages in conflict with their conscience even though they gladly serve everyone and decide which stories to tell based solely on the message, not any client’s personal characteristics.
Madison officials have forewarned that they consider a distinction between same-sex marriage and marriage between a man and woman to be forbidden in the public accommodations context. The ordinance also forbids anyone doing business from declining to promote a message on the basis of political belief; therefore, a speechwriter refusing to write a speech requested by President Trump, for example, would be in violation and subject to the same severe penalties as would apply to Lawson.

Since 2006, Madison has investigated at least 11 alleged violations involving sexual orientation or political beliefs, and Wisconsin officials have investigated at least nine businesses accused of not complying with their respective laws based on sexual orientation. Violators of Madison’s law are subject to fines of up to $500 per day as well as liability for civil damages. Those who violate the state law are subject to severe fines of up to $10,000 and business license suspension or revocation, as well as civil damages and punitive damages. 
Lawson’s lawsuit points to the websites of other Madison photographers who freely and clearly voice their beliefs supporting abortion and same-sex marriage. As the lawsuit notes, “Amy and the studio support the rights of the[se] businesses…to create art, blog posts, and other expressive mediums consistent with their owners’ beliefs” and conversely “to decline any requests for commissioned artwork, blog posts, or any other expressive medium because that request is inconsistent with the owners’ beliefs. Amy and the Studio simply want these same freedoms.”

Michael D. Dean, one of nearly 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case for Lawson and Amy Lynn Photography Studio. ADF attorneys also represent cake artist Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop in another artistic freedom case, which is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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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