Discrimination | Evangelical Christians | Evangelicals | Gay Marriage | New Mexico | News | Supreme Court

NM Wedding Photographer Who Refuses Gay Couples Taking Case to Supreme Court

Lawyers for Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin (pictured), who refused to photograph the commitment ceremony of Vanessa Willock, a resident of Albuquerque, on the grounds that same-sex marriage conflicts with Christian beliefs, is taking her case to the Supreme Court.

ElanephotographyThe New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Elane Photography was violating the antidiscrimination provisions of the New Mexico Human Rights Act in August.

SCOTUSblog writes:

The couple, Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, have summed up their views on the issue in this statement, excerpted from a legal brief in the state supreme court:

“Jonathan and Elaine are Christians, and as such, they believe the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.  They also believe that preserving marriage as the union of a man and a woman is ‘the best way to order society.’  Thus while the company wants to create photographs that tell the stories of weddings between a ‘bride and groom’, its policies prohibit creating images that convey an understanding of marriage that conflicts with Jonathan and Elaine’s beliefs.   Jonathan and Elaine believe that if they were to convey a contrary message about marriage, they would be disobeying God.

“Elane Photography does not refuse customers because of their sexual orientation.  Crucial to the company is the message conveyed through its photographs, not the sexual orientation of its customers. Therefore Elaine will not create photographs of heterosexual polygamous weddings just the same as she will not create photographs of same-sex ceremonies.  And she will decline to create photographs telling the story of a same-sex commitment ceremony even if the ceremony was part of a movie and the actors playing the same-sex couple were heterosexual.   On the other hand, Elaine will create portrait photographs for and provide other services to people who identify as homosexual so long as the message communicated through her pictures does not conflict with her beliefs about marriage.”

Their planned petition to the Supreme Court will seek to convince the Justices that their photographic work is a form of artistic expression that conveys messages, and it will argue that enforcing the New Mexico “public accommodation” law in ways contrary to their views compels them to express messages they do not embrace and interferes with the free exercise of their religious beliefs.

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  1. I doubt the US Supreme Court will touch this particular case. Even Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Thomas, Justice Scalia and Justice Alito know that they wouldn't be able to swing Justice Kennedy their way.

    Posted by: Phoenix Justice | Sep 13, 2013 4:20:47 PM

  2. What a sweet picture of a couple of bigots. Their convenient religious convictions are BS and it's going to come back and nip them from behind. The courts have a nice way of usually seeing through the "religious convictions" defense...bye bye Elane Photography.

    Posted by: PAUL B. | Sep 13, 2013 4:24:22 PM

  3. Well, Elane, if your crappy photography is a form of "artistic expression", you shouldn't be accepting money from your subjects.

    They are models and should then be paid by YOU for their services rendered.

    If, however, you are offering your photographic services for a fee, you are offering a public accommodation. Therefore, you ARE subject to New Mexico's antidiscrimination laws, you stupid Xtianist c!nt.

    By the way, you and your horsefaced husband are as ugly outside as you are inside. Enjoy bankruptcy and living under an Albuquerque overpass, beeyotch.

    Posted by: One of the CA 36,000+ | Sep 13, 2013 4:26:35 PM

  4. and I say go for it! I doubt their silly case will be heard by the Supreme Court and their so called "position" is still discrimination......ie.....There are people that don't like Turbans, Jews, Asians, Muslims, tattoos...Should they too be discriminated against??

    Posted by: Bernie | Sep 13, 2013 4:26:37 PM

  5. Does the photographer take engagement pictures for heterosexuals who have been living together in a sexual relationship prior to the engagement? Do they take photographs for people who are remarrying after a divorce, when said divorce was for reasons other than adultery? Do they photograph children born out of wedlock?

    If so...they would be condoning non-virgin brides and adulterous marriages, and bastard children.

    My guess is that they photograph these folk with no questions asked..and without protestation. Which simply makes them HYPOCRITES!

    Posted by: Taylor | Sep 13, 2013 4:28:33 PM

  6. When you open a business, it's open to the public. You don't have to like gay people. You don't have to marry one. But when you open a business to the public, it's open to the public. I hate fanatical religious extremists, but I can't tell them not to come to my restaurant. At least this illustrates how intolerant religion is in America. If you think that preaching intolerance, in God's name, is gonna get you closer to Heaven, you're sadly deluded. You're free to hate whoever you want, but if your business is NOT open to the public, you should cease advertising it to the public, and start passing out business cards to your congregation. If you only want to photograph Christians. The Bible says that we should kill the adulterers. Do you believe that too? Jesus must be rolling over in his grave.

    Posted by: Timitheos | Sep 13, 2013 4:45:51 PM

  7. I'm of two minds on this.

    1. Elaine seems to have clearly violated the state statute. Their submission to SCOTUS is cleverly crafted, but it can barely hide the fact that they denied services on the basis of sexual orientation. That bit about straight actors staging a same-sex ceremony is a nice try, however. I'd love to any documented occurrences of that splendid hypothetical.

    2. But speaking as someone who is planning his own wedding, I can not for the life of me understand why I would want to compel someone who hates me to photograph the most important day of my life. Yeah of course it's the principle blah blah blah. So what. There are other anti-discrimination battles that make a lot more sense.

    Unless these are literally the last photographers on earth, why the hell would I want them f*cking up my special day with their perverted worldview??? A lawsuit won't change their minds; it will merely force their odious presence at an otherwise joyous celebration.  And if they are there under duress, will the produce their best work??

    I'm a strong believer in non-discrimination statutes/litigation...but this particular suit seems misguided.

    Posted by: Lars | Sep 13, 2013 4:45:58 PM

  8. Aren't you guys going to accuse the husband of being a closet case -- like you did with Jake and Mackelmore -- and just about everybody else? You "he's a closet case" trolls are slouching! Get to work!

    Posted by: will | Sep 13, 2013 4:49:08 PM

  9. "Elaine Photography does not refuse customers because of their sexual orientation." Um...yeah...they actually do.

    Posted by: Joe | Sep 13, 2013 4:49:18 PM

  10. @Lars

    I agree this is a totally different level of engagement than the various bigot bakers who refuse to bake a cake. This photographer is going to be front and center in your ceremony, reception etc and they have ample opportunity to mess it up if they want. And it would just be creepy for everyone knowing the photographer hates everyone there.

    I think the best way to handle it for these religious crazies is to say quite clearly that they don't like gays, are against gay marriage etc, but they're law abiding citizens so if you really want your photos taken by someone who hates you they'll oblige. I would hope that would steer any potential conflicts away and the photographers wouldn't have to break the law.

    Posted by: Brian1 | Sep 13, 2013 4:52:18 PM

  11. Will, he is a closet case, and you're some angry grumpy old self-loather!

    Posted by: litper | Sep 13, 2013 5:00:38 PM

  12. These vicious little homophobes deserve to have their business SHUT DOWN immediately. They're not fit to take anyone's wedding photos. And it's truly laughable that SCOTUS would take their case.

    Posted by: Joe | Sep 13, 2013 5:04:01 PM

  13. @LARS... @BRIAN1...

    What likely happened in this case was that the same-sex couple was not aware of this photographer's hatred before approaching them to hire them. Once the bigotry was revealed, the right way to proceed is to go hire someone else who does want your business, but to also bring the lawsuit against the bigots. This serves two purposes. It lets others in the area know about the bigots so they won't make the same mistake of trying to hire them. And, it punishes the bigots appropriately for their disregard of the anti-discrimination laws.

    Posted by: anon | Sep 13, 2013 5:07:26 PM

  14. Sorry honey but if you ask for money, it's business, not "art" and you're discriminating.

    Posted by: calpoidog | Sep 13, 2013 5:09:52 PM

  15. "Artistic expression" my skinny little butt. It's work for hire, and when you accept a commission on that basis, you produce what you're asked to produce.

    Posted by: Hunter | Sep 13, 2013 5:20:36 PM

  16. Why do Christians think that other people are endlessly fascinated by their beliefs? This has to do with discrimination, not your sky god. Do whatever you want - but sorry, you can't run a business where you only serve blue eyed people either.

    Posted by: Tigerama | Sep 13, 2013 5:24:24 PM

  17. Jonathan, if God really loved you he would have given you the ability to grow a decent beard. And no, I don't mean Elaine...well, I don't just mean Elaine.

    Posted by: FakeName | Sep 13, 2013 5:30:37 PM

  18. I can tell you right away that the guy is a closet case. My "gaydar" went haywire.

    Posted by: Stephen | Sep 13, 2013 5:31:09 PM

  19. And by the same token, they do not have a right to convey their particular religious beliefs on the public they serve.

    Posted by: ToThePoint | Sep 13, 2013 5:34:37 PM

  20. If a Camera shop refused to sell cameras and related equipment to the Photography store, and said it was because they did not condone Christianist-what-ever and it violated their deeply held faith, the NM photography business would be up in arms and SCREAMING discrimination. When they do the SAME thing, it's a matter of religious freedom. What crap.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Sep 13, 2013 5:45:48 PM

  21. Out comes "they're bigots." Haven't heard that one in a while. I think "our way or the highway" might be more appropriate. And of course the ridiculous "Gaydar" aspect. Pity Diane Arbus wasn't available to take the pictures. She could make a ton of money these days on gay wedding pictures.

    Posted by: Art | Sep 13, 2013 5:56:13 PM

  22. Idiots -- "They also believe that preserving marriage as the union of a man and a woman is ‘the best way to order society.’ "
    There's a lot of things I'd like to change to better my idea of society but the law doesn't allow me to. Their religion clouds reality to the point of denial. They need to get shut down.

    Posted by: Jason | Sep 13, 2013 6:04:48 PM

  23. If phtographing a straight wedding was "art" then you could sell the photos to someone other than the bride and her mother

    Posted by: Elsewhere1010 | Sep 13, 2013 6:24:55 PM

  24. Doubtful that the US Supreme Court will hear this case, which is easily understood if you read the NM Supreme Court decision.

    1) The complaint was filed against a "business" that is a separate legal entity, "Elane Photography, LLC". The complaint wasn't filed against Elane as an individual. That's important because a recent federal court case in the Third Circuit specifically said that an employer that is a corporation has to follow the new health care law requirement to provide contraception coverage for its employees. The court said that a corporation is not a person, and therefore a corporation does not have religious rights. Ditto for Elane Photography, LLC -- an LLC is a separate legal entity and an LLC cannot have religious rights.

    2) The NM Supreme Court stated that Elane Photography LLC did not contest the fact that it is a "public accommodation". So the question then becomes whether "public accommodations" have to be provided for same-sex marriages -- not whether Elane (the individual) has to perform photography. This sounds like a technicality, but it's important (however, the Supreme Court said in the Boy Scout case, DALE, that sometimes public accomodations must give way to First Amendment rights of an entity -- but the Boy Scouts were a non-profit entity with a 'message' and 'philosophy', and they were not a for-profit business.

    So, barring a big surprise, these NM bigots will have to abide by the law. Perhaps they want to go into "non-profit, religious" photography -- maybe then they could discriminate. Maybe.

    Posted by: MiddleoftheRoader | Sep 13, 2013 6:27:35 PM

  25. Gay marriage was legalized in June. It hasn't been quite four months. The impact will come later. All of you may find yourselves sitting on bottles, like in Russia. The future is an unknown at this stage, but I'm sure your bitchy, mean and hateful victories will not get you where you think you're going. One thing they left out in all this rights war. Gays are not nice people. Gay males are vindictive bitches.

    Posted by: Tim | Sep 13, 2013 6:46:39 PM

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