John M. Becker

Supreme Court Declines Anti-Gay NM Photographer's Appeal

Filed By John M. Becker | April 07, 2014 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Christianists, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, Oregon, religious exemptions, religious freedom, religious liberty, same-sex marriage, special rights, Supreme Court, theocrats, weddings

Supreme CourtThis morning, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not hear Elane Photography v. Willock, the case of Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin, a New Mexico couple who violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act in 2006 when they refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, citing their Christian beliefs.

Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade reports:

The case was brought to the Supreme Court by Elane Photography, which was found to have violated New Mexico's anti-discrimination law for refusing to take a photo for the same-sex wedding ceremony for Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth in 2006. (The wedding was only ceremonial because the incident took place before the state legalized same-sex marriage.)

Elane Photography filed lawsuit in state court, alleging that its refusal to photograph a same-sex wedding is protected on religious grounds. However, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against the claims, saying the businesses service can be regulated because it's a public accommodation. Following that decision, Elane Photography asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the lawsuit based on First Amendment protections under the U.S. Constitution.

No comment was provided with the court's decision, so the reason they denied certiorari is unknown. But whatever the reason, today's decision lets the New Mexico Supreme Court ruling stand: the couple did, in fact, violate New Mexico state law by refusing to serve a same-sex couple.

It's a sad day for anti-LGBT bakers, photographers, and florists everywhere -- not to mention the bigots at the so-called "Alliance Defending Freedom" -- but a wonderful victory for the LGBT community, who will continue asserting the right for ourselves and our families to be treated exactly the same way as everyone else in the public square.

The ACLU reacted this morning in a press release; their response is after the jump. I will update this post with reactions from other LGBT organizations as they come in.


"No court has ever held that businesses have a First Amendment right to discriminate, and it is no surprise that the Supreme Court has denied this attempt to overturn settled law," said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "Selling commercial wedding photography services, like selling a wedding cake or a flower arrangement, does not mean that a business owner endorses a customer's marriage. The business is simply providing a commercial service. Everybody has the right to express their views on whatever subject they wish, and that includes business owners. But every business has to play by the same rules to protect customers from discrimination in the marketplace."

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