Homophobic photographer sues state because he doesn’t want to photograph gay weddings, even though nobody has asked him to
Anti-LGBT+ ‘wedding photographer’ Chris Herring is suing to strike down Virginia’s LGBT+ non-discrimination law because he’s worried he might hypothetically be asked to photograph a gay wedding.
In a lawsuit backed by the powerful anti-LGBT+ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), photographer Herring claims that his freedom of speech and religion are violated by the Virginia Values Act, the state’s comprehensive LGBT+ civil rights law.
Herring appears to have mysteriously erased his photography Facebook page as news of the suit emerged, but his website indicates he works primarily as a photographer for “brands, tourism boards, and other travel agencies” as well as offering wedding photography services on the side.
‘Wedding photographer’ Chris Herring claims that asking him to photograph gay weddings is religious discrimination.
The lawsuit asserts, Herring has a “formal policy, pattern and practice, and standard operating procedure to only offer wedding photography services celebrating weddings between one man and woman and to decline any photography requests celebrating any other weddings – including those for same-sex engagements or weddings – which would violate Chris’ religious and artistic beliefs.”
The lawsuit argues that by preventing him from discriminating against gay couples on the basis of his beliefs, the Virginia Values Act violates his religious freedom under the First Amendment.
The ADF suit also complains that Herring is not allowed to put up the digital equivalent of a ‘no gays allowed’ sign on his website, noting that LGBT+ discrimination protections would prevent him from holding a “written editorial policy” of “offering or providing wedding photography services only for engagements and weddings celebrating marriage between one man and one woman”.
Of the many bizarre arguments put forward in the lawsuit, perhaps the most bizarre is the argument that the anti-gay policy is not discriminatory because Herring would be willing to “create wedding photographs for a wedding between a homosexual man and a woman so long as the couple intends the marriage to be a lifelong union between that one man and one woman”.
Very angry ‘wedding photographer’ only set up LLC last month, doesn’t actually mention any interactions with gay couples.
Interestingly, despite the suit complaining that Herring would be prevented from declining requests to photograph “same-sex engagements and weddings”, the lawsuit includes no indication that any gay couple has ever actually asked Herring to photograph their event.
Indeed, while the lawsuit asserts Herring writes blog posts on his website about “all” weddings he photographs, to date the website includes blog posts about a grand total of two weddings and two engagements.
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Unfortunately, due to the serendipitous disappearance of his Facebook page, there’s little beyond these blog posts to corroborate Herring’s status as a well-renowned wedding photographer who would clearly be very much in demand by all the local gay couples – of which we will simply have to take the word of our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom.
Herring’s business, incidentally, appears to have only been incorporated as a limited liability company in June 2020, the same month his website’s domain appears to have been registered, and just weeks before the ADF lawsuit was filed. What fun coincidences these all are!
Anyway, in a release from ADF, Herring said: “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.
“Now Virginia is trying to intimidate creative professionals like me to change some of my other religious beliefs. 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.”
Virginia is yet to respond to the lawsuit.