Amy Lawson is a 25 year-old evangelical Christian who seeks to honor God in everything she does, creates, and says. A commissioned photographer and blogger, Amy is the sole owner of Amy Lynn Photography Studio, which offers visual storytelling services to clients on a commission basis. In addition to taking and editing photographs for individuals, events, and organizations, Amy posts those photographs on her studio’s blog and social media sites. She also writes comments on those posts praising and celebrating each client’s activity or event. Amy’s posts can be seen on the studio’s blog, Facebook page, and Instagram account.
Since Amy’s mother gave her a scrapbooking kit at age 13, Amy has loved preserving memories and telling stories. To create material for her scrapbooks, Amy started taking photographs and discovered her passion and skill to capture beautiful moments with a camera. As that skill grew, Amy eventually started her studio to tell stories through the beautiful moments she captured on camera and wrote about in her blog posts. She photographed her first wedding in 2011 and started her business in a formal way in September 2015.
As Amy says on her studio’s website: “Photography and blogging about my photographs lets me tell stories in ways more powerful than words alone. They let me shine a light on beautiful stories and share that light with others.” Thus, as the studio’s business documents say, Amy’s very purpose in operating the studio is to “capture and convey beautiful, pure, and true moments in ways that help us stop, see, and savor the light God has given us.”
Amy’s studio tells countercultural stories promoting marriage and the sanctity of life
Because of her religious beliefs about marriage, Amy particularly enjoys capturing beautiful moments of a wedding and sharing those moments with others. Amy has photographed many weddings, posted those photographs on her blog, and written comments celebrating marriage with comments like, “It’s been lovely getting to know these two a little better and a joy to be a part of their God-honoring ceremony.” In the same way, because of her religious beliefs about life, Amy desires to photograph and post about pro-life pregnancy health clinics so that she can highlight the amazing work and people at pregnancy health clinics as well as the precious joy of the lives they protect.
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Amy’s desire to create these photographs and posts has only grown over time as she has seen her generation reject Christianity’s vision for marriage and the sanctity of life. To counteract this trend, Amy wants to offer images that celebrate marriage between a man and woman, the sanctity of life, and organizations that promote these views. Just as many other photographers create visual images promoting their agendas, Amy hopes that others will see the beautiful, joyful moments of a marriage and the work of pro-life health clinics and be convinced that biblical marriage and life are worth pursuing, protecting, and treasuring.
Madison & Wisconsin laws threatened to compel Amy to take photographs and write words promoting same-sex marriage & abortion
To make clear to prospective customers that she could not promote same-sex weddings through her photography and blog posts, Amy put a statement on her website in 2016 saying she wouldn’t photograph same-sex weddings. One of Amy’s wedding clients objected and said she wouldn’t use Amy because of her beliefs. That along with news reports of Christians being sued for not promoting same-sex marriage caused Amy to take down the website statement for fear it might violate the law.
Amy’s fears were well-justified. By its terms, Madison’s law makes it illegal for public accommodations to deny “equal enjoyment” because of someone’s sexual orientation or political beliefs or to publish “any communication” that denies facilities or that conveys a person’s patronage is “unwelcome, objectionable or unacceptable” because of someone’s sexual orientation or political beliefs. Wisconsin’s law does the same regarding sexual orientation. While these laws should not affect Amy because she accepts and declines projects based on the message that project sends and not the status her clients hold, Amy feared that Madison and Wisconsin would interpret their laws like government officials in other jurisdictions — to compel and restrict Amy just because she objects to expressing messages promoting same-sex marriage and pro-abortion groups.
The penalties for violating these laws are severe. If Amy violates the Madison law, she can be punished with an injunction, out of pocket expenses, economic and noneconomic damages, costs, attorney’s fees, and a civil fine up to $500 per day.
If Amy violates the Wisconsin law, she can be punished with out-of-pocket expenses, costs, attorney fees, cease and desist orders, re-education training, revocation of her business license, and a fine up to $1000 for first time violators, and up to $10,000 for repeat violators. Also, if she violates the Wisconsin law, anyone can sue her and obtain injunctive relief, damages (including punitive damages), costs, and attorney’s fees.
Amy couldn’t comply with the law because creating photographs and blog posts promoting same-sex marriage and pro-abortion groups violates her artistic, religious, and political beliefs and directly contradicts her own message beatifying opposite-sex marriage and the sanctity of life. Amy also couldn’t comply with the law because she wants to explain her religious and political beliefs about marriage & the sanctity of life on her studio’s website.
Left with no viable option and seeing lawsuits against creative professionals all across the country, Amy filed a pre-enforcement challenge to gain clarity whether these laws applied to her and to challenge these unjust laws before they could have been enforced against her. During this time, Amy stopped accepting all requests for weddings and organizations and refrained from posting a particular statement on the studio’s website to avoid violating the law. Simply put, Amy stopped speaking for fear of violating the law and loses her right to speak every day she cannot obtain relief from a court.
In August 2017, the Wisconsin Circuit Court for Dane County issued two declaratory judgments stating that neither Madison’s law nor Wisconsin’s law applied to Amy and her business and therefore neither law stopped Amy from operating her business in accordance with her faith. Amy thus won her freedom to decline to promote objectionable messages and to express her religious beliefs on her studio’s website. Amy is currently operating her business in Madison in a way consistent with her beliefs without fear of punishment.
Alliance Defending Freedom is here to protect the right of creative professionals to use their God-given talents in ways that are consistent with their beliefs.