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New Mexico

N.M. Supreme Court rules against photographer in gay bias case

Thursday, August 22, 2013

SANTA FE, N.M. — A commercial photography business owned by opponents of same-sex marriage violated New Mexico’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to take pictures of a gay couple’s commitment ceremony, the state’s highest court ruled Thursday.

In an unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court said the business’s refusal in 2006 to photograph the ceremony involving two women violated New Mexico’s Human Rights Act “in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.”

Elaine Huguenin

The court’s ruling came after the Dona Ana County clerk on Wednesday began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, although state law doesn’t explicitly prohibit or authorize gay marriage.

Elaine Huguenin, who owns Elane Photography with her husband and is the business’s principal photographer, refused to photography the ceremony because it violated her religious beliefs.

The court rejected arguments that the anti-discrimination law violated the photographer’s right to free speech and the free exercise of religious beliefs.

A lawyer for the business, Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defending Freedom, sharply criticized the ruling and said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is under consideration.

“Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country,” Lorence said in a statement. “This decision is a blow to our client and every American’s right to live free.”

Justice Richard Bosson wrote that the business owners “have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different.”

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“That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us a people,” Bosson wrote in an opinion concurring with the court’s ruling. “That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.”

The court said a business could declare in its advertising that it opposes same-sex marriage but it has to comply with the anti-discrimination law.

Vanessa Wilcock and another woman found another photographer to shoot the ceremony but an anti-discrimination claim was filed with the state Human Rights Commission, which determined that Huguenin’s studio violated the law.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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35 more reader comments:

  1. Haha good. Stupid bitch just got her ass handed to her. And hopefully this is a wake up call to any other business who wishes to be a bigoted fuck head.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:34pm
  2. No offense, but do we want to force someone who is anti-gay to take pictures of your commitment ceremony? It´d be much easier to just drop her, tell friends about her business polices, and then go to another photographer. The courts are an added, unnecessary hassle.

    I don´t think the desirable outcome is to force someone like her to photograph same-sex commitment ceremonies. There are better routes to take.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:38pm
  3. Nicely said Ricky!

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:38pm
  4. This ruling sets an interesting precedent … but I have to say that I personally would just find another photographer, one that really wanted my business, and let people in the community know about the first business´ bigoted beliefs. Why give money to a bigot who will probably do a substandard job out of ´moral outrage´, when we could use someone who will do it happily (and right!) because they have no issues with it?

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:41pm
  5. Be opposed to gay marriage on your OWN time! When you operate a business, your business CANNOT be bigoted!

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:41pm
  6. Nobody is above the law, not even ignorant religious bigots. David, that´s like saying we shouldn´t have forced the Whites to allow Blacks to shop in our stores. It´s the same discrimination, just another minority.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:43pm
  7. Time and Time again, if you have a business and you cater to the public, that means all the public. Do you only photograph Christian weddings? Are they all in a Church? You could be photographing Atheist Couples, so you can´t call religion into the picture.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:46pm
  8. David De Moura Castro – I am sure that some white people thought the same about segregated drinking fountains. I mean, it´s not like they had to really go to court over it. All black people had to do was walk a little farther. I think it has more to do with forcing businesses, all of them, to treat everyone equal, rather than making selected groups feel like second class citizens.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:46pm
  9. Another Bigot bitch

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:57pm
  10. I agree with David. I would just let the person be and pay someone else who would actually want the job and will do their best. Why give your money to someone that doesn´t like/agree with you? I think spreading a negative word about the person/company either through friends or online is a better way of getting back at them if a person wants to show their dissatisfaction.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 7:58pm
  11. Wrong, We should sue people who violate out 14th Amendment protections.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 8:06pm
  12. Wrong, We should sue people who violate our 14th Amendment protections.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 8:06pm
  13. Cannot pick and choose your customers ! NM is often so cool !

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 8:09pm
  14. Uh. Yes, yes you can pick and choose customers. You really can.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 8:15pm
  15. I´m impressed! We had a very popular wedding spot here in Austin, Texas tell us that they wouldn´t hold our Commitment Ceremony there because of their beliefs. It was extremely upsetting especially from it being a PROFESSIONAL business. As upset as I was, I didn´t retaliate aside from an email I returned to them in return just stating my own beliefs and knowledge. But I guarantee you if an LGBT owned business denied a straight person because they didn´t believe in being “straight” that all hell would break loose.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 8:21pm
  16. Just goes to show that if you are a business owner you can not use your guaranteed freedom of religion to discriminate against a certain group of the community. If you can´t serve all people then get out of business!

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 8:23pm
  17. their court should tell their governor to back off her retoric

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 8:48pm
  18. Mariah Hechler doesn´t discriminate! She takes beautiful pics and fully supports equal rights! Located in Las Cruces, NM!!

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 9:02pm
  19. good

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 9:19pm
  20. Really? They are not contagious, just take the pictures Blvde Fotze! The holier than thou crap!

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 9:26pm
  21. I think the thing people are missing is not that they want to force her to be their photographer but rather, that it should be that our society is not going to allow for discrimination and if you´re going to be a bigot that´s fine but it will not be allowed socially. Otherwise we wouldn´t be able to shop at Wal-mart.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 9:33pm
  22. Bigoted people need to be put in their place David. This isn´t about giving her money. This is about being treated fairly.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 9:34pm
  23. People gonna HAVE to learn. EQUAL people…that´s all.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 9:47pm
  24. YEAH!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 9:49pm
  25. @Tom Kiser, no, you cannot pick and choose customers. You can refuse to serve certain customers who violate some rules such as if they are being abusive to you, your staff, or other customers, but NOT for them simply being who they are.

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 9:51pm
  26. Why does everything from them take so long to down load if it ever does at all ? I didn´t get to read this…

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 10:08pm
  27. Bad Photog. No Wedding Cake!

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 11:32pm
  28. Ill take ´em :-)

    Posted on Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 11:42pm
  29. I hate that people are so closed minded…but why are they forced to take pictures of them……did they have a contract or something..? I definitely want to be treated fairly like the rest of us want…but…yeah I wouldn´t want someone like this half assing my pictures because they were forced to..

    Posted on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 12:33am
  30. plus photogs should be falling over themselves for revenue getting LGBT weddings/alternative weddings under their belts…open up the money pool fools..

    Posted on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 12:34am
  31. Wait, they´re getting in trouble for not selling their service to someone? That´s… not cool. You should be allowed to deny anyone service for any reason. It´s YOUR company.

    Posted on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 1:32am
  32. Not when the “any reason” is discrimination.

    Posted on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 2:50am
  33. if it´s a privately owned company, the owners have a right to choose their own clients

    Posted on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 3:56am
  34. u lost bitch

    Posted on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 3:57am
  35. Not so Michael, this is called Arbitrary Refusal of Service and this is illegal. Businesses do not have the right to refuse service for any reason, they must prove that serving the person would prevent them from conducting business.

    Posted on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 5:35am