Oklahoma City photographer Kevin Johnson, a licensed wedding photographer in the state, was awarded $6 million in a lawsuit Wednesday that alleges he was unlawfully targeted by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Johnson, whose work includes weddings for celebrities and other big names, filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking damages against the agency, saying it improperly targeted him and other photographers and falsely threatened legal action if he refused to do their weddings.
The state alleges Johnson has a valid photo license, but he was not able to renew his license because of a technical issue.
Johnson’s attorneys have accused the state of discriminating against him because of his ethnicity and religion, alleging that the department violated Johnson’s rights by violating his civil rights by making it difficult for him to perform his jobs.
In a statement released Wednesday, Johnson said the lawsuit was “a desperate attempt to force the state to comply with its constitutional duty to provide services to its citizens.”
Johnson, 39, of Oklahoma City, was one of more than 2,000 photographers in Oklahoma who were denied access to the state Department of Social Services’ social media accounts after the agency started using the accounts to post messages to photographers.
The department then started issuing “social media alert” messages on social media to help identify potential problems.
In the suit, Johnson claims the department told him it would not approve his license application unless he also signed an agreement saying he would not use the department’s social media platforms to promote his work.
The document, Johnson alleges, said Johnson would not be permitted to use the social media platform if he signed it with a “no social media” condition.
The department also denied Johnson’s request to work from home on Thursday and Friday.
The state said it notified Johnson on Saturday that his application had been approved.
The suit contends Johnson was unable to obtain a work permit and was unable, for a variety of reasons, to obtain permission to photograph his wife, who was on a business trip to California.
Johnson said in his lawsuit that he is not the only one whose photo license was denied.
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections denied the same photo licenses to other photographers.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for Johnson and the state.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, injunctions, attorneys’ fees, court costs, costs and costs of the state in administering the social networking rules.