Religion

Christian Photographer Sues Over Equal Protection Laws

| by Michael Allen

A Christian photographer in Madison, Wisconsin, is suing the city and the state over their equal protection laws that protect people from discrimination in the public marketplace, also known as public accommodation.

Amy Lawson, who owns the Amy Lynn Photography Studio, is represented by Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, notes the Wisconsin State Journal.

The lawsuit filed by the ADF says Lawson wrote on her company website in January 2016 that she would not take pictures of same-sex marriages because of her Christian faith. 

That spring, Lawson met with a client who canceled a contract after the two discussed Lawson's views about gay marriage.

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After losing the job, Lawson removed her gay marriage position from her website due to news reports about "Christian business owners being sued for declining to promote same-sex marriage," according to the lawsuit.

Jumping ahead to the present day, Lawson filed her lawsuit to stop the City of Madison and the State of Wisconsin from enforcing their equal protection laws, which Lawson's lawsuit asserts are in violation of the state constitution's free speech clause.

According to her lawsuit, Lawson believes the equal protection laws are making it hard for her to do business per her Christian faith.

"I AM NOT CURRENTLY BOOKING FUTURE WEDDINGS" appears in the Weddings section of Lawson's website.

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The ADF also represented Elane Photography in New Mexico after the owners, Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin, refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony in 2007, The Washington Post reported. At the time, same-sex marriage was not legal in the state.

The Huguenins said they would "gladly serve gays and lesbians" by photographing their portraits, but insisted that covering a same-sex commitment ceremony would "require them to create expression conveying messages that conflict with their religious beliefs."

The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously upheld a ruling by the state human rights commission and said the Huguenins violated the state’s public accommodations law by refusing to serve a lesbian couple.

"When Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, it violated the [New Mexico Human Rights Act] in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races," the court stated, according to The Washington Post.

In a similar tone to Lawson's lawsuit, the ADF said in a petition to the ruling that Elaine Huguenin's photography work is artistic expression and that she could not be forced to "communicate messages antithethical to her religious beliefs ... through government coercion."

In April 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by the ADF, and the Huguenins lost the case.

Sources: Wisconsin State JournalAmy Lynn Photography Studio, The Washington Post / Photo Credit: Amy Lynn Photography Studio/Facebook

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