Should the courts force photographers to shoot gay weddings if its against their beliefs?
SANTA FE – The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that Christian photographers may not refuse to shoot homosexual ‘weddings’ in the state, as all citizens must ‘compromise … to accommodate the contrasting views of others.’
As previously reported, Elane Hugenin 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, Hugenin declined, stating that she only covers traditional weddings.
The situation soon ended up before the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, who ruled against Hugenin 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.
Hugenin 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 owners of Elane Photography must accept the reasonable regulations and restrictions imposed upon the conduct of their commercial enterprise despite their personal religious beliefs that may conflict with these government interests,” Judge Tim Garcia wrote on behalf of the panel. “The Klu-Klux-Klan is not a protected class. Sexual orientation, however, is protected.”
The Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) then appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously today that Hugenin 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.
“[W]e conclude that a commercial photography business that offers its services to the public, thereby increasing its visibility to potential clients, is subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of the [New Mexico Human Rights Act] and must serve same-sex couples on the same basis that it serves opposite-sex couples,” it wrote. “Therefore, 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.”
Justice Richard C. Bosson, who wrote a concurring opinion, had even stronger words regarding the matter.
“[T]he Huguenins…now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” he wrote. “Though the rule of law requires it, the result is sobering. It will no doubt leave a tangible mark on the Huguenins and others of similar views.”
Bosson asserted that while the Hugenins 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 Hugenins 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.
“On a larger scale, this case provokes reflection on what this nation is all about, its promise of fairness, liberty, equality of opportunity, and justice. At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less,” he wrote. “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.”
“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,” Bosson continued. “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. … In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.”
ADF decried the ruling, opining that it goes against the fundamental freedoms of conscience and expression.
“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 every American’s right to live free,” stated Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence, who argued the case before the court. “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.”
ADF is now considering appealing the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.
What are your thoughts on this article? Should the photographer be allowed to refuse a couple based on their personal beliefs?