September 2020 – A new Virginia law signed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam in April went into effect July 1. The Virginia Values Act prohibits “unlawful discrimination” over sexual orientation in “places of public accommodation,” which are defined as “all places or businesses offering or holding out to the general public goods, services, privileges, [or] advantages.” First-time violators of the law may be fined up to $50,000, while each subsequent violation may result in up to $100,000 in fines.
Virginia based Christian photographer Chris Herring filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, over concerns it would force him to take pictures at a same-sex wedding. Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Herring, filed the suit against Virginia’s attorney general and other state officials, stating in the suit that the new law violates Herring’s constitutionally protected religious and free speech rights as guaranteed in the First Amendment.
In a press release, ADF senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs said artists “shouldn’t be censored, fined, or forced out of business simply for disagreeing with the government’s preferred views. Because of Virginia’s new law, Chris faces an impossible choice: violate the law and risk bankruptcy, promote views against his faith, or close down.”