Attorneys for a Christian couple in New Mexico who were told by the courts that they may not refuse to shoot homosexual ‘weddings’ in the state have appealed the ruling to the United States Supreme Court.
Elane Huguenin and her husband Jon run Elane Photography in Albuquerque. In 2006, when Vanessa Willock, a lesbian, approached Elane and requested that she photograph her commitment ceremony, Huguenin declined, stating that she only covers traditional weddings.
The situation soon ended up before the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, who ruled against Huguenin in 2008, stating that she was guilty of violating the state’s “sexual orientation” discrimination law. New Mexico law prohibits “any person in a public accommodation to make a distinction, directly or indirectly, in offering or refusing to offer its services …to any person because of…sexual orientation.” The commission then ordered the photographer to pay nearly $7,000 in fines for refusing to shoot the ceremony.
Huguenin appealed the decision in December 2009, arguing that forcing her to go against her beliefs regarding homosexuality would be like forcing African Americans to photograph Klu Klux Klan members. Last June, the Mexico State Court of Appeals released a 45-page opinion upholding the guilty verdict.
The Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) then appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in August that Huguenin must shoot homosexual weddings despite her convictions. The panel was comprised of Justices Patricia Serna, Petra Jimenez Maes, Edward Chavels, Richard Bosson and Charles Daniels.
“When Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, it violated the NMHRA in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races,” the court concluded.
Justice Richard C. Bosson, who wrote a concurring opinion, had even stronger words regarding the matter. He asserted that while the Huguenins are being forced by the court to compromise the commandments of God, everyone must make concessions in life over matters that violate their conscience. He outlined that the Huguenins may freely live out their faith privately, but when it comes to running a public business, they will have to “pay the price” and check their Christian convictions at the door.
“The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life,” he stated.
“That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people,” Bosson asserted. “In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.”
ADF has now petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and affirm to the nation that businesses have the right to conduct commerce in accordance with their faith.
“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,” said Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to make it clear that no American has to abandon their constitutionally protected freedoms just to make a living. No American should be punished or put out of business simply for disagreeing with the government’s opinion on a moral issue.”
“Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced by the government to express opposing views,” added Legal Counsel Jim Campbell. “Should the government force an African-American photographer to take pictures of a KKK rally? A government that can force anyone to promote messages against his or her will is a government out of control.”