iStock-brokencameraAugust 23, 2013 — Reli​gious​Lib​erty​.TV

Yester­day, the New Mex­ico Supreme Court ruled that the First Amend­ment does not pro­tect a photographer’s deci­sion not to pho­to­graph a same-sex com­mit­ment cer­e­mony even if it would vio­late the photographer’s deeply held reli­gious beliefs.  In 2006, Elane Huguenin, owner of Elane Pho­tog­ra­phy, declined a request to pho­to­graph a same-sex com­mit­ment cer­e­mony. In 2008, the New Mex­ico Human Rights Com­mis­sion ruled that she had engaged in ille­gal dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and ordered her to pay $6,600 in attor­ney fees.

Elaine Huguenin

Elaine Huguenin

Vanessa Willock, who requested the pho­tog­ra­phy, is an Equal Employ­ment Oppor­tu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tive with the Uni­ver­sity of New Mexico.

Huguenin had argued that they were not opposed to pho­tograph­ing gay cus­tomers but that their Chris­t­ian beliefs pre­vented them from doing so in a way that would endorse same-sex marriage.

In a con­cur­ring opin­ion, Jus­tice Richard Bosson rec­og­nized the restric­tions on lib­erty from the deci­sion, but claimed that the court was advanc­ing a greater good.  “In the smaller, more focused world of the mar­ket­place, of com­merce, of pub­lic accom­mo­da­tion, the Huguenins have to chan­nel their con­duct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Amer­i­cans who believe some­thing dif­fer­ent. 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. That sense of respect we owe oth­ers, whether or not we believe as they do, illu­mi­nates this coun­try, set­ting it apart from the dis­cord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.”

Cases involv­ing the con­flict between nondis­crim­i­na­tion poli­cies and indi­vid­ual reli­gious free­dom are increas­ing, as is the notion that reli­gion should remain between a per­sonal mat­ter resid­ing solely in the mind and not affect one’s con­duct in soci­ety. One can respect the right of two peo­ple to com­mit them­selves to a same-sex mar­riage, but using the power of gov­ern­ment to force oth­ers to express them­selves artis­ti­cally in ways that sup­port that deci­sion is a vio­la­tion of basic rights of con­science and the First Amendment.

Vanessa Willock

Vanessa Willock

ACLU deputy legal direc­tor Louis Melling wrote, “Today’s opin­ion rec­og­nizes the sin­cer­ity of those beliefs, but makes clear that no one’s reli­gious beliefs make it okay to break the law by dis­crim­i­nat­ing against others.”

Respond­ing to the court’s deci­sion, Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom senior coun­sel, Jor­dan Lorence, said, “Government-coerced expres­sion is a fea­ture of dic­ta­tor­ships that has no place in a free country.”

This case will likely be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. As of this writ­ing, the state of New Mex­ico does not rec­og­nize same-sex marriages.

Pub­lic opin­ion appears to side with Huguenin, as a Ras­mussen poll last month found that “If a Chris­t­ian wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher who has deeply held reli­gious beliefs oppos­ing same-sex mar­riage is asked to work a same-sex wed­ding cer­e­mony, 85% of Amer­i­can adults believe he has the right to say no.”

The Deci­sion in Elane Pho­tog­ra­phy v. Willock is avail­able here: http://​www​.nmcom​p​comm​.us/​n​m​c​a​s​e​s​/​n​m​s​c​/​s​l​i​p​s​/​S​C​3​3​,​6​8​7​.​pdf

###

 

After post­ing this, Jason Hines blogged about the case at http://​the​hi​ne​sight​.blogspot​.com/​2​0​1​3​/​0​8​/​a​l​m​o​s​t​.​h​tml  He dis­agrees with my con­clu­sion that favors the right of a pho­tog­ra­pher not to be com­pelled to pro­duce art­work that vio­lates her con­science, and argues in favor of the deci­sion of the New Mex­ico Supreme Court on moral and spir­i­tual grounds.  What do you think?  - Michael Peabody

 

 
 

No comments

Be the first one to leave a comment.

Post a Comment