WASHINGTON — Eight state attorneys general, along with 18 wedding photographers, have filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a Christian photographer that is fighting for the right to decline photo shoots that violate her faith.
As previously reported, 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.
“[W]hen 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.
ADF then 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. It explained that the Huguenins “will serve anyone; they do not turn away any customers because of their protected class status. But they will decline a request, as the First Amendment guarantees them the right to do, if the context would require them to express messages that conflict with their religious beliefs.”
Last Friday, 18 wedding photographers, eight attorneys general and even two advocates of same-sex “marriage” filed briefs in support of the Huguenins, stating that they should have the right to choose which jobs they will accept.
Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Oklahoma and Virginia were all represented by a brief led by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.
“[T]he real slippery slope arises from the state court’s rule that the government can use public-accommodations laws to compel persons who create speech to create certain kinds of speech, Strange wrote. “Under the state court’s rule, a law firm would be obligated to take on a homosexual client who wants to make arguments in favor of same-sex marriage, in the same way this photographer is being forced to photograph a same-sex ceremony.”
“States can protect against invidious discrimination and can still protect First Amendment rights,” he asserted. “The government can make its views known without coercing the Huguenins to spread the message.”
ADF notes that a recent Rasmussen poll shows that 85 percent of Americans believe that a Christian photographer should be able to decline projects that violate their faith.
“All Americans should oppose unjust laws that force citizens–under threat of punishment–to express ideas against their will,” said Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “As those who filed supportive briefs in this case understand, a government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.”