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This Virginia Photographer Is Standing Up for Freedom

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
September 29, 2020

Bob Updegrove has seen a lot of change in his photography career over the years.

When he first started his work as a photographer, the film had to be developed in a darkroom. Now, he uses a digital camera and edits the images on a computer. Originally, Bob took photos for school and youth group events. Now? Those students are getting married—and he photographs their weddings.

What Bob didn’t expect to change was his freedom to choose what events to celebrate and what messages to express through his photography. 

But even that has taken a drastic turn in Virginia, where Bob lives. 

Earlier this year, Virginia passed the so-called “Virginia Values Act.” Under this law, Bob is forced to use his artistic talents to photograph same-sex weddings if he photographs weddings between one man and one woman. The law also forbids him from publicly explaining on his own website the religious reasons why he only celebrates wedding ceremonies between one man and one woman. 

That’s why, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, Bob has filed a lawsuit challenging this new state law. 

While Bob will happily serve anyone, he cannot express every message through his photography. And he shouldn’t have to. There is enough room in our society for a wide variety of beliefs and viewpoints to peacefully coexist. 

For example, hundreds of photographers advertise their services and willingness to photograph same-sex weddings on popular websites like “the knot.” Shouldn’t Bob have the same artistic freedom as these other photographers?

Virginia doesn’t seem to think so. With its new law, it is demanding that people like Bob embrace the state’s preferred ideology or face the consequences. 

And there are some serious consequences. 

Under the Virginia law, if Bob declines to participate in a same-sex ceremony, or even explains his beliefs about marriage on his website, he faces initial fines of up to $50,000 and then $100,000 per additional violation. These fines would be crippling to a small-business owner like Bob. 

Bob also could face court orders demanding that he violate his beliefs. Bob’s only other option would be to close down his business. 

That’s an impossible choice. And it’s one that Bob shouldn’t have to make. The Constitution protects the right of all people to peacefully live and work according to their beliefs without fear of unjust punishment.

Unfortunately, Virginia seems to have forgotten that.

And that’s why Bob is taking a stand. 

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Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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