A lawsuit filed by a Madison photographer who feared prosecution by city and state authorities over her views on same-sex marriage ended Tuesday after her lawyers and government lawyers agreed at a hearing that her business isn’t subject to the laws that she was challenging as unconstitutional.
Amy Lawson, owner of Amy Lynn Photography Studio, had alleged that a city ordinance and a state law that prohibit public places of accommodation from discriminating against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, among other reasons, violate her right to free speech and freedom of religion, and asked that the ordinance and the law be declared unconstitutional.
But because the photo studio has no public physical presence other than Lawson’s home, it doesn’t fall under the definition of “public place of accommodation or amusement” under city ordinances or under the definition of “public place of accommodation” under state law.
In its brief, state lawyers wrote that the state public place of accommodation law has never been applied by the state Department of Workforce Development to people who operate businesses out of their own homes.
The case ended with a ruling in Lawson’s favor, but neither side will be responsible for paying the other’s legal costs.
Lawson, an evangelical Christian, had posted a statement on her business website saying that she does not photograph same-sex weddings, and believed that might attract scrutiny from city or state authorities. According to her lawsuit, in 2016 a client had canceled Lawson’s service after learning about her views on same-sex marriage.
Lawson had not been prosecuted under either law, said her lawyer, Jonathan Scruggs of the Alliance Defending Freedom, but was seeking a pre-emptive ruling from the court about whether she could be.
“We came to court asking for clarity about whether the law applied,” Scruggs said. He called the outcome of the case “great news” and “a huge win for Ms. Lawson.”
With the case concluded, it won’t reach the constitutional issues that Lawson had highlighted in her lawsuit, which was filed in March. Instead, both sides will collaborate on final orders resolving the case that are to be signed at a later date by Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess.