Court tells Christian photographer she has to photograph gay wedding, ‘price of citizenship’
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a Christian wedding photographer violated the state’s human rights law by refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.
Elane Huguenin is a photographer in New Mexico. She and her husband Jonathan jointly own their family business, Elane Photography. She is also a devout Christian, who believes that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
In 2006, Vanessa Willock contacted Elane Photography, asking Elane to photograph her lesbian commitment ceremony. It was a private commitment ceremony because New Mexico recognizes neither gay marriage nor gay civil unions. Elane thanked Willock for her interest, but explained that due to her religious beliefs she only does traditional weddings.
Willock filed a complaint against Elane with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, citing a state law that does not allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The commission ruled Elane’s decision illegal, and imposed a fine of $7,000 to cover legal fees.
Justice Richard Bosson wrote, in concurrence, that the Huguenins are “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.” He concluded, “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.” That “compromise,” he wrote, “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.”( Emphasis added)
This shouldn’t be the end of the matter, said Ken Klukowski, the director for Center for Religious Liberty at the conservative Family Research Council.
“This decision would stun the framers of the U.S. Constitution, is a gross violation of the First Amendment, and should now be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court to reaffirm the basic principle that the fundamental rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion do not stop at the exit door of your local church, and instead extend to every area of a religious person’s life,” he said in a written statement.
Lorence said in an ADF statement:
Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country. This decision is a blow to our client and to every American’s right to live free. Decisions like this undermine the constitutionally protected freedoms of expression and conscience that we have all taken for granted. America was founded on the fundamental freedom of every citizen to live and work according to their beliefs and not to be compelled by the government to express ideas and messages they decline to support. We are considering our next steps, including asking the U.S. Supreme Court to right this wrong.
A recent Rasmussen poll showed that 85% of Americans support the right of a religious photographer not to participate in a gay-marriage ceremony.