The New Mexico Supreme Court has decided that a Christian photographer must photograph a same-sex union ceremony or face charges under the state's anti-discrimination laws. The justices of New Mexico's
highest court ruled that Christians in the business world must surrender their religious freedoms in the marketplace.
The case involves Elane Photography, a photo studio operated by Elaine Huguenin and her husband Jonathan
in Albuquerque. Huguenin was approached by Vanessa Willock in 2006 who asked her to photograph a same-sex "commitment ceremony" with her female "partner." Neither same-sex "marriages" or civil unions are legally recognized in New Mexico.
Huguenin declined the request to photograph the ceremony, citing her religious convictions. Willock then filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, alleging that she was a victim of "sexual
orientation" discrimination under the state's "public accommodations" law. The Human Rights Commission found Huguenin guilty of the charges in 2008, and ordered her to pay over $6,600 in attorney's fees to Willock and her "partner."
Huguenin and her husband appealed the decision to the state's circuit court. District Court Judge Alan Malott affirmed the Human Rights Commission decision, saying that Elane Photography was guilty of discriminating against homosexuals, a protected class under New Mexico law. Malott stated that Elane
Huguenin could refuse to photograph children and animals because they were not protected classes under the law, but that lesbians were entitled to non-discrimination consideration.
With the help of attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom, Elane Photography filed an appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court
after an unfavorable verdict from the state's appeals court. Elane Huguenin argued that she should not be compelled to use her artistic and creative skills as a photographer to convey an understanding of marriage that conflicts with her
religious beliefs. Huguenin cited the First Amendment religious freedom clause, saying she had a free exercise right to refuse to capture and reproduce images of a ceremony that she viewed as morally objectionable.
In a unanimous opinion, New Mexico's High Court ruled that the "public accomodations" law did not violate the Free Exercise Clause because it was a "neutral law of general applicability," and that Elane Photography was lawfully required to photograph the lesbian ceremony. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that laws of general applicability may still be unconstitutional when they affect more than one constitutional liberty.
In this case, Elane Huguenin asserted infringement on both her freedom of religion and her freedom of speech, claiming that the law compelled her to engage in artistic speech without her volition. In a remarkable display of collective dishonesty, the New Mexico Supreme Court refused to consider the multiple rights claim, saying that it had been "inadequately" briefed.
The most shocking part of the New Mexico Supreme Court decision was the concurring opinion written by Justice Richard Bosson. The judge wrote that the Huguenins were "free to think, say, and believe what they wish," but if they choose to engage in civic life, they must pay the price of sacrificing their religious freedom.
Justice Bosson said that those who choose to participate in the "world of the marketplace, of commerce, and of public accommodation," must conform their conduct to the beliefs of others as the "price of citizenship." Bosson nonsensically claimed that it is somehow possible to
"channel [one's] conduct" in support of morally repugnant behavior without abandoning one's personal beliefs. He claimed that such "tolerance" is the "glue that holds us together as a nation."Jordan Lorence
, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, says the New Mexico High Court decision is the antithesis of tolerance. "The idea that free people can be 'compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives' as the 'price of citizenship' is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom. Americans are now on notice that the price of
doing business is their freedom."
"Government coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country," Lorence continued. "America was founded on the fundamental freedom of every citizen to live and work according to their beliefs and not be compelled by the government to express ideas and messages they decline to support. This decision is a blow to our client and every American's right to live free."Ken Klukowski
, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, is hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a further appeal of the case. "This decision would stun the framers of the U.S.
Constitution. Rather than live-and-let-live, this is forcing religious Americans to violate the basic teachings of their faith, or lose their jobs...The free exercise of religion does not stop at the exit door of your local church."
The abusive decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court stands in sharp opposition to nearly universal public sentiment on this issue. A Rasmussen survey conducted in July found that 85% of those polled believed a Christian photographer should have the right to turn down a "same-sex wedding job." Only 8% agreed with the position taken by the justices on the New Mexico High Court.
"Public accommodation" laws like that in New Mexico are being pushed by homosexual rights activists across the country to provide a legal tool to attack and harass Christian business owners. Such laws have been used to
prosecute a Christian florist for failing to provide a floral arrangement for a homosexual "wedding"; to prosecute a Christian baker for choosing not to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual ceremony; to prosecute a Christian t-shirt manufacturer for declining to print t-shirts for a "gay pride" festival; and to prosecute a Christian church for refusing to allow a same-sex union ceremony on its property.
Even the Missouri Senate passed a similar bill this past session. Fortunately, the Missouri House rejected the Senate's irresponsible and reckless action on this issue.
Homosexual rights activists in our state are also working to put a "public accommodations" law on the books through an initiative petition drive.
You can read more about Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin and the courageous stand they have taken for religious liberty by clicking the link below. You will be taken to the online version of a 2009 edition of the Alliance Defending Freedom's Truth and Triumph
publication. Here is the link:Elane Photography