Supreme Court Declines Appeal of Christian Photographer Ordered to Shoot Same-Sex Ceremonies

elane.photographyWASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case of a Christian photographer who was ordered to shoot same-sex ceremonies despite her religious beliefs, allowing the mandate to stand.

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.

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“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.

“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,” Bosson asserted. “In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.”

ADF then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court last November to hear the case and affirm to the nation that businesses have the right to conduct commerce in accordance with their faith. But on Monday, the court declined to hear the case, allowing the lower court rulings to stand, which ordered the Huguenins to shoot the ceremonies.

“Only unjust laws separate what people say from what they believe,” commented ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence following word that the case had been declined. “The First Amendment protects our freedom to speak or not speak on any issue without fear of punishment. We had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would use this case to affirm this basic constitutional principle; however, the court will likely have several more opportunities to do just that in other cases of ours that are working their way through the court system.”


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