UPDATE: Important victory for photographer, other Wisconsin creative professionals
It really wasn’t in Amy Lawson’s five-year plan to be involved in a lawsuit, fighting for her right to free speech. But that’s exactly what she is doing today as the attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) presented argument on her behalf before a court in Wisconsin.
Amy began her own business, Amy Lynn Photography Studio, excited to launch her career in photography and blogging. Through scrapbooking in middle school, she had realized her love for visual storytelling, and she continued to pursue that in college taking photos for her campus newspaper and for some friends’ weddings. Now, Amy loves shooting portraits, weddings, and other events, celebrating beautiful moments in her clients’ lives.
She wasn’t just excited to start her own business as a photographer and blogger because she enjoys it, however. She also sees it as an opportunity to promote her beliefs and speak countercultural messages. In particular, Amy is passionate about promoting a biblical understanding of marriage, as between one man and one woman. She also wants to promote the sanctity of human life through her work.
But Amy found out that Madison’s local nondiscrimination ordinance, which includes sexual orientation and political beliefs, could be used to force her to photograph and blog about events or organizations that promote messages contradictory to her faith if she does the same for events and organizations she agrees with. Under the law, Amy is not even permitted to explain her beliefs on her website.
When Amy takes photos for her clients, she is telling and celebrating a beautiful story – not only through her photography, but on her blog as well. She cannot use her artistic talents or her words on the blog to communicate a message that violates her beliefs. And to avoid being punished by the government under this law, Amy has stopped doing wedding and organizational photography altogether.
So, Amy was left with the choice to be forced to speak a government-mandated message, or stop speaking altogether. That’s a major violation of her free speech rights any way you look at it.
That’s why ADF has filed a lawsuit on her behalf. Today, we asked that the court halt enforcement of this Madison law while the case is ongoing. And ultimately, we are asking that the constitutional principles of religious freedom and free speech be upheld, allowing for individuals to express a variety of beliefs in Madison without fear of government punishment.
No one should be forced to promote and celebrate something against their beliefs.
Amy is standing for this right in her own business, and by extension, for all creative professionals who wish to use their talents consistently with their beliefs. A lawsuit might not have been in Amy’s five-year plan, but its impact could have major implications for free speech and religious freedom in our country moving forward. And we are thankful for courageous clients like Amy who are willing to stand up for those freedoms.
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