Supreme Court refuses case of photographer who declined to shoot gay ceremony

By KTTH | April 8, 2014
Winter Weather Washington

The U.S. Supreme Court will not take up the case of a New Mexico photographer who did not want to capture a same-sex wedding because it’s against her religious beliefs – but the case may have less to do with religious freedom and more about free speech and government power.

The New Mexico Supreme Court had ruled that the photographer violated a state law that says businesses open to the public cannot discriminate based on race, sex, religion, or sexuality for refusing to take pictures at a lesbian commitment ceremony.

In 2007, Elane Photography, owned by Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin, declined to take photos of the “commitment ceremony” of lesbians Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth. Elane photography told the lesbian couple that it would take portraits of gay couples, but would not photograph a commitment ceremony because that would “require them to create expression conveying messages that conflict with their religious beliefs.”

“The message a same-sex commitment ceremony communicates is not one I believe,” Elaine Huguenin has said. “If it becomes something where Christians are made to do these things by law in one state, or two, it’s going to sweep across the whole United States…and religious freedom could become extinct.”

Willock sued Elane Photography under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, and the state human rights commission ruled against the photographers. The state Supreme Court upheld that ruling, which is why the Huguenins, with the help of the group Alliance Defending Freedom, sought relief from the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the Huguenins did not rely on a religious freedom argument in asking the Supreme Court to take up the case. Instead, they said in a petition that forcing them to “communicate messages antithetical to [Elaine Huguenin’s] religious beliefs … through government coercion” was a violation of the Huguenins freedom of speech because her photography was a form of personal expression.

The Huguenins predicament inspired the creation of laws – most notably in Oklahoma and Arizona – that would grant businesses greater freedoms to decide who to serve. An Arizona law, which was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer, would have allowed business owners the ability to avoid being sued or punished if they declined to serve a person whose lifestyle violated their religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court did not say why it would not hear the Elane Photography case.

comments powered by Disqus
Top stories

Don't miss
  • debate
    Freedom Series - The First 100 Days Michael Medved, Todd Herman, Chairman of the King County Republican Party Lori Sotelo, and Former State Representative, County Councilman, and GOP State Chairman Chris Vance debate President Trump's first 100 Days at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.

Don't miss
  • debate
    Audio: The Fight For the White House Ben Shapiro, Michael Medved and David Boze analyze the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls, with an eye towards who can best take back the White House and defeat Hillary Clinton. Moderated by Jason Rantz.

Don't miss
  • debate
    Video: Gun rights debate In KTTH’s third Freedom Series Debate, hosts Ben Shapiro and Michael Medved sat down with KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross and Ralph Fascitelli, President of Washington Ceasefire, to take on initiatives 594 and 591 and other gun rights issues.

Don't miss

Don't miss

Real Estate Corner
  • Robin's Real Estate Reality Talk
    Robin's Real Estate Reality Talk We are in a very unique market. Right now our area is showing signs of recovery. We are moving in a positive direction and gaining equity though are ways off from where we were in 2006 and 2007.