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  • ADF Appeals Case of Christian Photographer Who Refused to Photograph Same-Sex Ceremony


    The drive to redefine marriage is inextricably linked with the stubborn habit of punishing those who disagree with the redefinition and hold to marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

    We were reminded of this on May 31, when the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that found Elane Photography of Albuquerque guilty of sexual orientation discrimination for declining to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.

    The ceremony was for two women in Taos, and the court agreed that Elane must pay almost $6,700 in attorney’s fees to the complainant—even though the couple found another photographer to record the event. The owners of Elane Photography had declined to photograph the ceremony because the message communicated by the ceremony conflicted with their Christian beliefs.

    The New Mexico Court of Appeals rejected the free speech and religious liberty defenses raised by lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which is defending Elane and its owners, Jon and Elaine Huguenin. On June 27, ADF appealed this case to the New Mexico Supreme Court and, if necessary, will appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    In this case, the conflict with religious freedom stemmed from a nondiscrimination law, and New Mexico does not grant legal recognition to the couple’s same-sex relationship. But such conflicts are likely to increase in jurisdictions that grant legal recognition to same-sex unions.

    This ruling is perilous because business owners do not surrender their First Amendment rights at the marketplace gate. A speechwriter is not engaging in “religious discrimination” when he declines an offer to write a speech attacking Catholicism or defending atheism. A black videographer who declines to film a Ku Klux Klan rally is exercising her right of conscience, not engaging in racial discrimination against white people. The First Amendment protects the right of people to refuse to promote a message they oppose.

    Even those who support legal recognition of same-sex unions should support Elane Photography in this case. If the government can punish these two business owners for declining to promote a message with which they disagree, then the government can punish any business owner for holding convictions that aren’t in vogue.

    Jordan Lorence serves as senior counsel and senior vice-president of the Office of Strategic Initiatives for the Alliance Defense Fund at its Washington, D.C., Regional Service Center.

    The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    28 Responses to ADF Appeals Case of Christian Photographer Who Refused to Photograph Same-Sex Ceremony

    1. Inis_Magrath says:

      The photographer declined to accept the would-be client because it would, "violate her sincerely held religious convictions."

      And, the Heritage Foundation wants you to think this is something to be admired and defended.

      As a Jewish person who has seen anti-Semitism up close, I have a different view. I've been refused service by businesses for the stated reason that they don't cater to Jews. I never filed a law suit, but I could have. I simply took my business elsewhere and told every soul I know the reason why.

      I believe that when you open a business to serve a public clientele, you can't discriminate against clients based on you religious views. When I go to eat at a restaurant, I don't expect to see a sign, "No Jews served" and I expect the Heritage Foundation would agree that such a thing would be wrong — even if the restaurant owner said they didn't want to serve Jews because it would "violate sincerely held religious convictions."

      What if this photographer refused to accept clients who were Jewish, because she believed all who reject Christ "violate her sincerely held religious convictions." Would that be ok, Heritage Foundation?

      Or what if she refused to accept clients who are mixed race couples or clients who are divorced because that also would "violate her sincerely held religious convictions." Would that be ok, Heritage Foundation?

      Perhaps the Heritage Foundation envisions an America where store fronts can all post a sign with a list of people they refuse to serve because their religion doesn't accept the idea those people represent — non-Christians, non-whites, divorcees, people who eat non-kosher foods or those who work on the Sabbath, whatever. I would reject that as un-American and an affront to liberty and freedom.

      • @keconrad21 says:

        I think that it would be perfectly okay if she refused service to a Jewish wedding or a wedding of two divorced people. I REALLY DO. I think that's perfectly fine. It's HER company, and she can choose who she caters to. In fact, I would LOVE it if the Heritage Foundation would endorse anyone's decision to choose who they give service to. She and her husband are not employees of the government, and therefore have all the right in the world to deny service to anyone they please.

        • "I would LOVE it if the Heritage Foundation would endorse anyone's decision to choose who they give service to. She and her husband are not employees of the government, and therefore have all the right in the world to deny service to anyone they please."

          Well, there goes our civil rights laws. Discrimination based on personal prejudice is apparently OK, after all. Can exclusively white neighborhoods be far behind?

          • Bobbie says:

            would you hire a known pedophile to babysit your children? or a known crook to do your accounting? Unless you would, you discriminate!!! It's part of our freedom to associate. The government and it's services is not suppose to service by race, creed, culture, or color! Their services are suppose to reflect equal governing TO SEE US EQUAL!!! THAT'S WHY THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT HAAAAAAAAD RESPECTFUL, LIMITED ROLES!!!!!!! and a part of what makes America exceptional. Government once had the decency to treat us equal, not treat some inferior through government discriminating programs…

      • Chris Columbe says:

        Inis — what would you think if the government told a Jewish deli owner that he must serve non-kosher food? Or what if the government told a Jewish filmmaker she had to do a remake of Triumph of the Will? See where we are going here?

        • Inis_Magrath says:

          Chris, those examples are off point because deli owners or any restaurant owners are free to sell whatever foods they want, but they are not free to refuse service to Blacks, Jews, etc. Similarly, filmmakers undertake projects of their choosing.

          • Geoff Clarke says:

            In this case then, the food she won't serve is photographing a same sex wedding. Had they requested a wedding of a man and a woman they would have received service. Just as the Jewish deli owner would serve beef but not pork.

      • Jordan Lorence says:

        The case in New Mexico is unlike the situation you describe of a restaurant refusing to serve a Jewish person. It is more like a photographer who turns down an offer to photograph an event of a person giving a speech entitled, "the Holocaust Never Happened." Although the photographer sells his services in the commercial marketplace, that photographer does not lose his First Amendment rights. It would be wrong for the government to punish the photographer for "discriminating" against the Holocaust denier. The New Mexico photographer declined to photograph an event communicating that marriage can be redefined to include same sex couples. No business owner or professional should be punished by the government for promoting a message they disagree with. Serving food to a Jewish person at a restaurant does not involve the compelled speech issues that the New Mexico photographer case involves.

        • Neil says:

          What you are saying is true, Mr. Lorence, but you know as well as I do that the court is going to claim your hypothetical doesn't apply because Holocaust deniers are not a protected class. Gays are. Religious beliefs are protected and therefore photographers are not allowed, under the NM appeals court ruling, to deny services to Satanists who want their Satanic ritual or ceremony photographed. There aren't many people that I know of that want to be involved with anything Satanic so the judge might see your point better. And just in case the judge claims that Satanism isn't a religion, the Church of Satan is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Manhattan, NY.

      • Justin says:

        I agree with the concept of being polite and not passing judgement on others.
        Your comment:

        ""Or what if she refused to accept clients who are mixed race couples or clients who are divorced because that also would "violate her sincerely held religious convictions." Would that be ok, Heritage Foundation?""

        is simply wrong. The Bible does not state such hateful judgments as requirements. I would assume, in accordance to your comment before that, that Jewish ceremonies would be conducted in a Jewish manner (forgive my use of language to keep this short) where family or friends would be involved in the process. This case, however, is of sexual orientation discrimination (if there can be such a case). They are openly sharing their "beliefs" or "opinions" or "way of life" and everyone has the right to choose not to participate.

      • Bonita Casa says:

        People are born Jewish. People choose behavior. That's what you need to understand. You have a legitimate beef; those demanding special rights based on their behaviors do not.

      • Gary Lindsay says:

        Elane Photography is not having their beliefs infringed. They are free to continue to believe marriage is man-woman only, and taking picture of a same-sex commitment ceremony does not undermine their freedom to hold that belief.

        However, they were complete fools to say why they wouldn't do the job. It never hurts to keep your mouth shut for the reasons you say "no". If they had just said, "We're sorry, we have a schedule conflict and can't do that day." then this would have never made the news. By preaching, they were entering the public sphere, and became subject to non-discrimination laws.

    2. @RStillwater says:

      "The First Amendment protects the right of people to refuse to promote a message they oppose."

      A Jewish person denied service at a restaurant is not promoting a message – they're just hungry and looking for a meal.

      You're right to take your business elsewhere. You're wrong to sacrifice the photographer's own freedom as an American to satisfy the liberty of another.

      • relativisticgeologist says:

        A gay couple denied wedding photography is not promoting a message-they're just in love and are looking for a wedding.

        The examples of speechwriters and filmmakers being forced to work for the KKK or neo-nazis are not comparable to the example of the gay wedding, because in each of those cases they are being asked to support a particular political cause. The right to gay marriage is a political cause, and I would not want to legally compel a photographer to help make a pamphlet promoting it. An individual gay wedding, however, is a personal rather than a political event. By refusing to serve it, the photographer is not discriminating against an idea but against two people. That is wrong, and should not be legal.

        • Bobbie says:

          it's not wrong for people to own a business and refuse service to those that conflict with the owners beliefs. THAT'S AMERICA!! We the people have every right to discriminate! It's our freedom! I'm not going to hire a pedophile to babysit my children! I would much rather the photographer
          wanted my business then force them to be insincere to theirs.

    3. Bobbie says:

      The business has every right to discriminate, that's where competition comes in. These people got their photographer at no loss to anyone. For gay people to go out of their way to prove personal intolerance can and will prevail through America's crooked courts that protect intolerances instead of restoring tolerance Americans once had in common by consideration and respect to, for and of civil liberties, shows American's lost grace. People shouldn't have the power to insist businesses reduce their beliefs or punished because of their beliefs to service conflicts to their beliefs especially when there is business that will service them!! ACTIVISM bringing down America, spreading weakness everyday…

      • relativisticgeologist says:

        What if every photographer in town is opposes gay marriage? Does that mean that gay couples don't get wedding pictures? Or perhaps the one or two photographers willing to do the photos get to charge a premium because of the lack of competition. That effectively imposes a fee on being gay. Is that right?

        • Bobbie says:

          What if every gay person was a photographer? I know what you mean about cost impositions because of who a person is. EVERYTHING IS MORE EXPENSIVE BECAUSE OF GOVERNMENT LABELING! The medical term "complicated" puts people in a higher cost bracket regardless of complications or not. Pregnancies, dental, at higher costs not because of anything extra that would raise the cost, because of a LABEL and nothing more. There's no answer as to why the disease I have exists, but a label to insure it's expense and what can be drawn out of it for fear, more costs and make work!! Hiding the cure I'm sure since the disease can be and is manipulated into complications that leads to death, while generating so much revenue before hand and throughout.

          But as far as a choice of who we are as individuals and how we conduct ourselves and out of respect for others, costs will vary and this shouldn't have become an outrage to fight for intolerance to prevail. That's low life and low life shouldn't be common to acknowledge publically! Low life will then become common and everyone that isn't low life, needlessly and unfairly burdened and thieved.

    4. AT Inis. Actually as a private business not receiving a dime of any public funding to run it, this photographer should be able to choose which clients she services or not and for whatever reason she chooses. Doesn't matter if we agree with her or not. It's her business, her choices, and we should all leave her the freedom to choose as she did.

      However there is a sound difference between choosing not to service someone for their ethnic background, a civil right, versus choosing not to service someone who made a choice regarding sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is not a civil right.

      • Eoin O'Liathain says:

        Barrie, sexual orientation is not a choice. That kind of ignorant and unscientific statement gives a bad name to conservatives.

        • largebill says:

          Actually there is no real proof that people are born gay. Most likely explanation is the most simple one and that is that environment and upbringing lead people to decide they will be gay.

        • Bobbie says:

          sex is a choice to have, so is how it's oriented. "not being a choice" is what's unscientific and inconsiderate of the fact…

    5. George Sims says:

      This is not about a restaurant which is an open door business. This is a business that offers a service based on individual requests. Why shouldn't they have the right to refuse to do business with anyone they want? Their mistake in this all too politically correct nation was to admit why. I would have said "sorry, we are completely booked that day." I think the couple wanted a law suit to prove a point.
      I guess if the couple had been atheist, or better yet satanist, you would sing the same tune? I doubt it.

    6. Joan of Snark says:

      To argue that Elane Photography has no right to refuse to use their personal, creative skills to further something that wasn't even legal in their state at the time is like saying that any artist, regardless their medium, is essentially a slave of the general public. From there it is but a short hop to forcing someone to use their skills for government propaganda.

      Look at it this way, should you be able to force a vegetarian to photograph a slaughterhouse? What about you being forced to photograph pornography? How about being forced to photograph the execution of someone you love?

    7. Linders says:

      What's next? Pastors being sued and churches shut down because the pastor dared to quote the Word of God regarding homosexuality. I see it coming down the road sooner than later. So much for liberty and freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. If your views don't coincide with the regime, you're a "hater". I prefer disagree'er. :) I don't hate anybody! :)

    8. Linders says:

      People need to quit redefining the word, "hate". If I disagree with you, it doesn't mean I hate you. It means I don't agree with you. It means I have a mind of my own to think and have my own opinion. It doesn't mean I hate you for disagreeing with me. It means exactly what it is. I disagree with it. When I say I hate you or commit violence towards you because of our differing opinions, THAT is hate.

      • largebill says:

        Great comment. I usually challenge people who stupidly call it "homophobia" to be anything other than in complete agreement with every part of the gay agenda. Do they not understand that "phobia" means an irrational fear of something? If I oppose the silly concept of hate crimes it is not out of a fear of any thing except government officials trying to determine a crooks motivations. I could list a dozen other examples that have nothing to do with fear but are rather a sincere difference of opinion about policy ideas.

    9. largebill says:

      Shame that a fairly large city like Albuquerque only has one person with a camera. What a bunch of nonsense.I've known a few friends who attempted to make a go of starting a Photography Studio and all struggled to get enough business. If I go to a store, restaurant or (God forbid) wedding photographer that does not want my money then someone else gets my business. Businesses turn away customers in many ways poor service, inhospitable greeting, etc. Very few honestly explain that they don't want your business as this photographer did.

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