The Foundry 22 August 2013
Earlier today, the Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled that the First Amendment does not protect a Christian photographer’s ability to decline to take pictures of a same-sex commitment ceremony—even when doing so would violate the photographer’s deeply held religious beliefs. As Elaine Huguenin, owner of Elane Photography, explained: “The message a same-sex commitment ceremony communicates is not one I believe.”
But New Mexico’s highest court, deciding an appeal of the case, today agreed with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission and ruled against Elane Photography, concluding that neither protections of free speech nor free exercise of religion apply.
Elaine and her husband Jon, both committed Christians, run their small photography business in Albuquerque, N.M. In 2006, she declined the request to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. In 2008, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruled that by declining to use its artistic and expressive skills to communicate what was said and what occurred at the ceremony, the business had engaged in illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The commission ruled this way based on New Mexico’s human rights law, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations (“any establishment that provides or offers its services … or goods to the public”) based on race, religion and sexual orientation—among other protected classes.
Elane Photography didn’t refuse to take pictures of gays and lesbians, but only of such a same-sex ceremony, based on the owners’ belief that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. New Mexico law agrees, as it has no legal same-sex civil unions or same-sex marriages. Additionally, there were other photographers in the Albuquerque area who could have photographed the ceremony.