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Virginia photographer now free from government coercion

ADF attorneys favorably settle lawsuit in wake of US Supreme Court’s 303 Creative decision
Bob Updegrove sitting at a table with his camera

RICHMOND, Va. – Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis, an Alliance Defending Freedom case that affirmed free speech for all Americans, ADF attorneys have successfully settled a lawsuit on behalf of a Virginia photographer. As part of the settlement, Virginia officials agreed that Bob Updegrove is free to create wedding photography consistent with his beliefs, as protected by the First Amendment.

“Free speech is for everyone. As the Supreme Court recently affirmed in 303 Creative, the government can’t force Americans to say things they don’t believe,” said ADF Legal Counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse. “This victory for Bob underscores how the 303 Creative decision will protect countless Americans from government censorship and coercion. The U.S. Constitution protects his freedom to express his views as he continues to serve clients of all backgrounds and beliefs.”

“We commend Attorney General Miyares and his office for agreeing that state officials cannot punish Bob for exercising his First Amendment rights,” Widmalm-Delphonse added.

Updegrove filed suit in 2020, challenging a recently enacted law that required him to offer and create photography celebrating same-sex weddings because he offered to create photography celebrating opposite-sex weddings. The law also prevented Updegrove from publicly explaining on his studio’s own website the religious reasons why he only celebrates wedding ceremonies between a man and a woman. The prior Attorney General of Virginia considered such communications “discriminatory.” The law threatened initial fines of up to $50,000 and then $100,000 per additional violation, along with court orders that could have forced him to photograph events against his conscience if he wanted to stay in business.

As part of the settlement, Virginia officials acknowledged that the Constitution protects Updegrove’s right to create wedding photography consistent with his beliefs, and that he is free to communicate his business policy regarding his religious beliefs on marriage.

In light of the settlement of Updegrove v. Miyares, ADF attorneys filed a stipulated dismissal of the case Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse
Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse
Legal Counsel
Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse serves as legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is a member of the Center for Conscience Initiatives.