Wedding photographer sues Virginia because the new law “forces him to promote same-sex marriage”

Jul 9, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Wedding photographer sues Virginia because the new law “forces him to promote same-sex marriage”

Jul 9, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Chris Herring, a wedding photographer Norfolk has sued the state of Virginia because of its new anti-discrimination law. According to him, this new law could force him to “to promote same-sex marriage,” which is against his religious beliefs.

The new law is known as the “Virginia Values Act.” It prohibits discrimination “on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, public and private employment, public accommodations and access to credit,” as the Virginia Pilot explains. However, it looks like not everyone is thrilled about the law.

Chris Herring’s lawsuit opens with the words that he “is a photographer with a passion to show others the beauty in God’s creation.” Since he is a Christian, same-sex marriage doesn’t coincide with his beliefs. According to his attorneys, the new law is “threatening to fine Chris into bankruptcy for not creating photographs and blog posts he objects to.”

“So Chris faces an impossible choice: violate the law and risk bankruptcy, promote views against his faith, or close down,” the lawsuit states. But it goes on sounding like a conspiracy theory:

“And this was exactly what Virginia officials wanted for those who hold Chris’ religious beliefs about marriage. Legislators who passed Virginia’s law called views like Chris’ ‘bigotry’ and sought to punish them with ‘unlimited punitive damages’ to remove them from the public square.”

According to the Virginia Pilot, Herring already works with LGBT clients for brand and adventure shoots. “But he does not photograph same-sex weddings and feels that doing so would be creating art and sending a message against his beliefs,” said Kate Anderson of Alliance Defending Freedom.

Does it sound like you’ve heard this story before? That’s because you have, only it was a different photographer and a different state. Last year, wedding photographer Chelsey Nelson sued Louisville, Kentucky claiming that the law “forces” her to shoot same-sex weddings. The two photographers are even represented by the same firm, Alliance for Defending Freedom. The difference is that Herring reportedly works with the LGBT community, only in different fields.

The Virginia Pilot writes that Herring wasn’t available for comment. However, he reportedly issued a statement via the alliance saying that “it isn’t the state’s job to tell [him] what [he] must capture on film or publish on [his] website.”

“My religious beliefs influence every aspect of my life, including the stories I tell through my photography. If you’re looking for someone to photograph a red-light district or promote drug tourism, I’m not your guy. … I happily work with and serve all customers, but I can’t and won’t let the state force me to express messages that contradict my beliefs.”

In the case of Chelsey Nelson, Justice Department supported her. How Chris Herring’s lawsuit will end is yet to be seen. We’ll keep you updated as the situation unfolds, and you can read the lawsuit here.

[via PetaPixel]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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31 responses to “Wedding photographer sues Virginia because the new law “forces him to promote same-sex marriage””

  1. Robert Ieuan Griffiths Avatar
    Robert Ieuan Griffiths

    Sounds like he’s trying to be the victim ?‍♂️

  2. Nikola Brboleža Avatar
    Nikola Brboleža

    Yeah.. Because it’s easier to be a victim here than just say “I’m sorry that date is already taken” it’s so simple..

  3. Robert Hicks Avatar
    Robert Hicks

    Smart to file first before being forced into a situation for the sole purpose of being made an example of to strike fear into others.

  4. Greg Grant Avatar
    Greg Grant

    It’s his right to choose who and what he wants to photograph. No government should have the right to enforce such a ridiculous law.

    1. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
      Jolyon Ralph

      What if a photographer didn’t want to photograph black people? Should that be allowed too?

    2. Greg Grant Avatar
      Greg Grant

      Jolyon Ralph – yes! It’s a private business not a publicly owned corporation. No difference than a photographer choosing to not shoot animals, family portraits, kids, etc. Their business – their choice.

    3. Kryn Sporry Avatar
      Kryn Sporry

      Greg Grant it’s more complicated than that. The laws referenced here I believe state that photographers can’t refuse services based on the sexual preference of their customers.
      There’s no reason why such service providers couldn’t say “I can’t do that date”, and avoid the entire discussion.

      In my personal opinion people should be refused for any purpose that is based on the usual discrimination factors (race, age, political alignment, sexual preference, gender, etc).
      But I also think that such couples are out of their minds if they insist someone who dislikes them should photograph them.

      I would not appreciate it if someone would refuse me their services based on my skin colour, and yes I would consider it discrimination, but I wouldn’t pursue the matter, because I simply wouldn’t get the photos I want on my wedding day.

    4. Jason Page Avatar
      Jason Page

      Greg Grant I think we had times like that before, like when lunch counters weren’t for coloreds.
      He already chooses to work with LGBT – just not their wedding? Again, it’s his choice but some choices have consequences. Who would want a bigot shooting their wedding anyway?

    5. Greg Grant Avatar
      Greg Grant

      Jason Page – thanks for the history lesson, but I’m well aware of the undertone here. My point is that it should not be up to any government to decide, whether
      by punishment or enforcement, who or what a private business decides to serve. It’s removing our rights! It won’t stop there either!!

    6. Jason Page Avatar
      Jason Page

      Greg Grant businesses are well within their rights to refuse service for non discriminatory reasons. No rights are being removed.

    7. Greg Grant Avatar
      Greg Grant

      Jason Page – ok, well you just keep thinking that way until you’re told how to conduct yourself and your business. Best of luck with it!

    8. Jason Page Avatar
      Jason Page

      Greg Grant I don’t discriminate so it’s not really a concern for me. I feel sorry for you if discrimination is part of your successful business model. Good luck to you as well!

    9. Matt MacCourt Avatar
      Matt MacCourt

      Greg Grant no he isn’t because the USA is a free market. If you offer a service then you have to offer it to everyone willing to pay for the service. That’s how a free market works, basic stuff.

      He is well within his right to choose who he photographs in his own time, but in terms of his business he either offers it to everyone or no one.

    10. Greg Grant Avatar
      Greg Grant

      Matt MacCourt – I think you’d better review the civil rights act. The law prohibits discrimination by privately owned places of public accommodation. Look it up!

    11. Matt MacCourt Avatar
      Matt MacCourt

      Greg Grant The article states that it prevents discrimination in housing, private and public employment. Having actually looked further into it I fail to see how the law actually affects his business at all. It therefore seems, particularly given the spurious conspiracy claims his lawsuit also alleges, that he is actually just using his business to make a political point and garner the publicity that follows. That’s what I’m seeing at least, the law as stated does not force him to change his business practices at all. Therefore this is spiteful at worst and just cynical opportunism at best.

    12. Tunes Firwood Avatar
      Tunes Firwood

      One wonders how painting a target on your back is opportunism.

      Would *you* be willing to publicly associate your brand with him now?

  5. aleroe Avatar
    aleroe

    On your wedding day, do you want a photographer there, who doesn’t want to be there and resents you for forcing him?

  6. Kryn Sporry Avatar
    Kryn Sporry

    I don’t get it. Those laws don’t dictate what you should publish. They dictate that you can’t reject customers based on their sexual preferences. Very different.

  7. Millard Trammell Avatar
    Millard Trammell

    What a special snowflake…

  8. Paw P Larsen Avatar
    Paw P Larsen

    Imagine if a photographer said he wouldn’t shoot a Catholic wedding because child molestation is against his belief.

    1. Matt MacCourt Avatar
      Matt MacCourt

      Paw P Larsen this is called whataboutery and is irrelevant, because it hasn’t happened, which is why no one is talking about it. In any case if it was to happen (which it most likely won’t) then the law would function in the same way.

      And that’s aside from the obvious point that it’s not comparable, unless you’re claiming that he’s refusing to photograph same sex weddings because he thinks they molest children.

  9. Jeff Hayward Avatar
    Jeff Hayward

    my question is, how many same-sex couples is he turning away before the law? why would they come to him now?

    1. Robert Ieuan Griffiths Avatar
      Robert Ieuan Griffiths

      Jeff he’s looking for an excuse to justify it

    2. Tunes Firwood Avatar
      Tunes Firwood

      “According to the Virginia Pilot, Herring already works with LGBT clients for brand and adventure shoots.”

      One imagines those clients may be reconsidering their patronage now.

  10. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
    Jolyon Ralph

    Of course he isn’t right.

    When you advertise a service you have to serve everyone without discrimination. If you’re a photographer and don’t like same-sex weddings then don’t be a damn snowflake, toughen up, be a professional, do your job and do it well. You’re not being paid to have an opinion on the ceremony, only to document it.

    You’re under no obligation to put those photos in your portfolio.

    If you really can’t do this then you are in the wrong profession and shouldn’t be offering a service to the public. Either that or move to a country with a more restrictive understanding of what marriage is, Russia for example.

    1. Ruud Brouwer Avatar
      Ruud Brouwer

      Jolyon Ralph definitely. Imagine if a wedding photographer didn’t want to take photo’s of Jewish couples. Or interracial couples. In both cases everybody would (rightfully) can him/her an a-hole.

    2. Greg Grant Avatar
      Greg Grant

      Jolyon Ralph – no, you do not! Anti-discrimination law in the US ”prohibits discrimination by privately owned places of public accommodation.” No shoes, no shirt, no service. As long as any business owner operates in a private setting the law doesn’t necessarily apply. It gets more complicated when the refusal to serve is based on religious grounds. I’m not advocating this person was right or wrong, but it’s their choice not the laws!

  11. Mario Dennis Avatar
    Mario Dennis

    He’s documenting a ceremony, not “promoting” it.

  12. William James Avatar
    William James

    The prejudices and bigotries of the religious right are just nuts.

  13. R Dalton Avatar
    R Dalton

    If a barber is muslim, and doesn’t want to violate the rules of his faith by touching a woman’s hair, should he be compelled to cut her hair?

  14. Mentos Cubing Avatar
    Mentos Cubing

    Ah. Good old Christianity, justifying bigotry as always.