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HomeNewsCourt Backs Christian Photographer, Rules He Can Refuse LGBTQ+ Couples

Court Backs Christian Photographer, Rules He Can Refuse LGBTQ+ Couples

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As a Christian photographer, the last thing Bob Updegrove wants to do is photograph an LGBTQ+ couple. However, due to its non-discrimination policies, Virginia’s 2020 law prevents him from doing that. In theory, these laws do not allow Updegrove to refuse to take pictures of same-sex weddings. 

Immediately after the state announced this law, Updegrove and some other workers were unhappy about it. So, he filed a pre-enforcement challenge, fighting against the law even though it had not affected him yet. He also had the support of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in this legal battle. 

The ADF describes itself as a “legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God’s design for marriage and family.” Therefore, they backed Updegrove’s suit immediately in Court. 

It is important to note that some people view the ADF as a hate group. For example, The Southern Poverty Law Center believes the group simply hates the LGBTQ+ community regardless of what others think their intentions are. This is unsurprising as the ADF had helped many people file lawsuits against the community’s laws. 

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ALSO READ: Christian Teacher Wins Against School Board in Major Case in Virginia Supreme Court

At first, the district court dismissed Updegrove’s initial challenge. The photographer and the ADF remained determined and decided to appeal to higher courts. Their appeal was successful, and now he has settled with the state of Virginia. The Fourth Circuit Court ruled to allow Updegrove to refuse to work with LGBTQ+ couples.  

According to the settlement, Virginia cannot force Updegrove to photograph weddings between same-sex couples. The settlement also allowed him to quiz prospective clients on the nature of their wedding. He can also ask them if they want a photographer who would work with same-sex couples and decline their requests. 

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Furthermore, the suit allows Updegrove to promote his anti-LGBTQ+ policy. This is a huge win for the state’s Christian groups, the ADF, and Christians. On the other hand, it is a big loss for the LGTBQ+ community. 

Why? Because it follows a string of consistent losses in Court for the community. In June 2023, the ADF won a case against the community called 303 Creative v. Elenis. This case involved a Christian web designer who refused to design a gay wedding website for a client. 

ALSO READ: Christians Worry as Church for ‘Nones’ Emerge Across the US

The state of Colorado and the ADF represented the photographer as well. However, this case had a lot of holes, and it was easy for them to win. The case claimed that the client asked for a gay website, but the man said he didn’t make that request when the Court asked him. He also said he wasn’t part of the LGBTQ+ community, and he was married to a woman. 

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Therefore, it was a confusing case for many. Nevertheless, the Court ruled in favor of 303 Creative that Colorado’s anti-discrimination law violated Smith’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Therefore, unlike the previous laws, they cannot force him to design a website. 

Some reports believe this is only the beginning of the reversal of most anti-discrimination policies, and they may just be correct. 

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