A Christian photographer is suing Virginia officials over a statewide LGBT nondiscrimination law that went into effect this week.
The Virginia Values Act prohibits discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit.
Chris Herring, a Norfolk photographer, alleges in a federal complaint filed Tuesday that the law violates his First Amendment rights by forcing him to promote same-sex marriage against his religious beliefs. Herring is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been designated as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Virginian-Pilot reports: Herring “faces an impossible choice: violate the law and risk bankruptcy, promote views against his faith, or close down,” his attorneys wrote in the suit, filed Tuesday in federal court. “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.” …. Herring was not available for comment but said in a news release from the alliance that “it isn't the state's job to tell me what I must capture on film or publish on my 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.”
The office of Attorney General Mark Herring (no relation to Chris), responded to the lawsuit in a statement: “Attorney General Herring believes that every Virginian has the right to be safe and free from discrimination no matter what they look like, where they come from, or who they love. LGBT Virginians are finally protected from housing and employment discrimination under Virginia law and Attorney General Herring looks forward to defending the Virginia Values Act in court against these attacks.”
Read the ADF's full complaint here.