A Christian wedding photographer and two churches, three Christian schools, and a pro-life ministry sued Virginia for its LGBTQ discrimination law. The plaintiffs argue that the law is a violation of religious freedom in the First Amendment.
The Christian plaintiffs say the state law forces their hand. If they don’t forsake God’s commandments, they could endure hundreds of thousands or more in fines and litigation fees. And, they could face a court order to adhere to the law. These individuals are also prohibited from expressing any religious beliefs that may be perceived as discriminatory.
The suits are filed against Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and Director of Virginia Division of Human Rights and Fair Housing R. Thomas Payne II. The plaintiff in the first case is photographer Bob Updegrove. Plaintiffs in the second case are Calvary Road Baptist Church, Community Fellowship Church, Community Christian Academy, and Care Net.
Governor Ralph Northam’s Virginia Values Act is an addition to the Virginia Human Rights Act. This latest act prohibits public accommodation discrimination against persons for their “sexual orientation, gender identity, [and] status as a veteran.” Meaning, businesses who serve the public can’t deny service to individuals based on those identities.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing the plaintiffs in both cases. ADF’s mission statement is to defend American citizens’ religious freedoms.
“The government cannot demand that artists create content that violates their deepest convictions,” stated ADF lawyer Jonathan Scruggs.
Proponents of the Virginia Values Act believe differently. Virginia’s first openly gay legislator, State Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) argues that “people have a right to be free from discrimination.”
Earlier this summer, another Christian photographer filed suit with the ADF to fight the Virginia Values Act.
Virginia is currently one of 21 states that has discrimination laws extending to public accommodations.
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