(Daily Caller News Foundation) – Virginia state officials agreed to settle a lawsuit with a Christian wedding photographer after he refused to use his business to celebrate same-sex marriage, according to a press release.
Bob Updegrove filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Jason Miyares and Christine Lambrou Johnson, the director of the state’s Office of Civil Rights, in September 2020 after a state law required him to affirm same-sex marriage in his photography business, according to court documents. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the law firm representing Updegrove, announced Monday that the state had agreed to settle following the recent Supreme Court decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which determined that the government cannot compel a business owner’s speech, according to a press release.
“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,” Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse, counsel for ADF, said in the press release. “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 prohibits businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation and Updegrove argued in the lawsuit that the law aims to “regulate Bob’s views—that marriage should be between a man and a woman—out of existence.” He claimed that under the law he would be unable to publicly state anywhere on his website or business social media that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, ultimately violating his right to freedom of expression under the First Amendment.
A district court ruled in March 2021 that while the case “creates ‘the odor of a case or controversy’ … the scent is not strong enough” for the court to rule in its favor, according to the opinion, forcing Updegrove to appeal. However, the Supreme Court ruled in June 2023 that the state of Colorado could not force Lorie Smith, a Christian web designer, to make websites celebrating same-sex marriage and chill her right to free speech.
As a result, the state agreed to settle to “avoid further costs and expenses of litigation,” according to the court documents.
“We commend Attorney General Miyares and his office for agreeing that state officials cannot punish Bob for exercising his First Amendment rights,” Widmalm-Delphonse said in the press release.
The AG’s office and the Office of Civil Rights did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.