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04/19/2007


Supporter of New Mexico Couple at Center of SCOTUS Challenge Buys Website, Attacks 'Queers'

6a00d8341c730253ef01901ef3deb8970b-800wiRecently, the debate over marriage equality--at least in the realm of state legislatures--has included lots of talk about religious exemptions, or which individuals and organizations are allowed to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages because of their religious beliefs.  

For example, while houses of worship and clergy members are free to refuse to solemnize a gay union--protected, of course, by the First Amendment--businesses such as wedding planners are bakers are not.  In most states, this is because of already-existing public accommodations laws which prohibit any business that is open to the public from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

6a00d8341c730253ef0192acb2d4d9970d-300wiOne such state with a public accomodations law is New Mexico, where Elaine Huguenin, a photographer and opponent of marriage equality, last month suffered a unanimous defeat at the hands of the state supreme court, which ruled that "[W]hen Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, it violated the [New Mexico Human Rights Act] in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races." Huguenin, along with her husband John, are taking their case to the Supreme Court.

The Huguenin case is bound to be an interesting one, since the New Mexico couple is in fact basing its challenge not on grounds of religious liberty, but rather on free speech protections, arguing that the taking and arranging of photographs is a form of artistic and personal expression protected by the First Amendment.  As Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times, wrote today, that makes the case a difficult one for both sides:

There are constitutional values on both sides of the case: the couple’s right to equal treatment and Ms. Huguenin’s right to free speech. I asked Louise Melling, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, which has a storied history of championing free speech, how the group had evaluated the case.

Ms. Melling said it had required difficult choices. Photography is expression protected by the Constitution, she said, and Ms. Huguenin acted from “heartfelt convictions.”

But the equal treatment of gay and lesbian couples is more important than the free speech rights of commercial photographers, she said, explaining why the A.C.L.U. filed a brief in the New Mexico Supreme Court supporting the couple whose commitment ceremony Ms. Huguenin had refused to photograph.

“This is a business,” Ms. Melling said. “At the end of the day, it sells services for photographing weddings. This is like putting up a sign that says ‘Heterosexual Couples Only.’”

The Huegenins have some unlikely allies, of sorts: the libertarian Cato Institute, along with law professors Eugene Volokh and Dale Carpenter--all supports of marriage equality--told the New Mexico Supreme Court to side with the photographers, writing, "Photographers, writers, singers, actors, painters and others who create First Amendment-protected speech must have the right to decide which commissions to take and which to reject."

It would seem, however, that not all of Elane Photography's supporters are quite so well-spoken.  Jeremy Hooper reported yesterday that "an enterprising supporter of the business'[s] right to discriminate went rogue and created his own site on the ElanePhotography.us domain."  The results aren't too pretty:

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It would be a big step for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case where a state high court had unanimously ruled on an issue of state law, and would almost certainly mean a majority of justices was leaning towards reversing the New Mexico ruling.  If they choose to do so, though, we can only hope that whoever's behind the ElanePhotography.us page doesn't suddenly decide to submit a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the photographers. Then again, maybe we should hope they do just that.


New Mexico Wedding Photography Anti-Gay Discrimination Case Now At The Supreme Court

New Mexico Supreme Court

In September we told you the story of a New Mexico photography studio who refused to photograph the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple, claiming that doing so would be a violation of their religious beliefs.

ElanephotographyThe New Mexico Supreme Court originally ruled that Elane Photography was violating the anti-discrimination provisions of the New Mexico Human Rights Act, but Elaine Huguenin and her husband John Huguenin, the couple who owns Elane Photography, have filed a new petition with the argument that the original ruling "will interfere with the expressive activity of photojournalists in general, who engage in the same kind of expression."

Further, the couple claims that not being allowed to turn away a gay couple and having to pose, edit, and present a story through photographs of a homosexual couple that wished to pay for their services would be a form of compelled speech which would be in violation of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.


Scientists Baffled by Mysterious, Tiny Structures in Amazon: PHOTOS

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There's something fun about scientists being completely stumped--it's a little reminder that, despite everything we humans have figured out about our world, the Earth is far more diverse and mysterious than we can imagine.  One such enigma has cropped up this week in South America, as WIRED explains:

Something in the Peruvian Amazon is making weird, intricate structures that resemble white picket fences surrounding an Isengard-like spire.

No one has any idea who the mysterious craftsbug (fungus? spider?) is, or what the structure is even used for, excepting the fence part, which almost makes sense. Nobody, not even the scientists. We asked.

Troy Alexander, a graduate student at Georgia Tech, spotted the first of these structures on June 7. The little, seemingly woven fence was parked on the underside of a blue tarp near the Tambopata Research Center, in southeastern Peru. He later spotted three more of the bizarre enclosures on tree trunks in the jungle.

Photos of the mysterious structures were first posted to Reddit's "What's this bug?" section 10 days ago, and biologist Phil Torres, who works in the Tambopata area, tweeted a link to the photos last week.

WIRED reached out to a smattering of scientists to ask for hypotheses about the structures' origins and got back...well, not many answers:

“I have no idea what made it, or even what it is,” said William Eberhard, an entomologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

“I’ve seen the photo, but have no idea what animal might be responsible,” echoed Norm Platnick, curator emeritus of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History.

“I don’t know what it is,” said arachnologist Linda Rayor, of Cornell University. “My guess is something like a lacewing, but I don’t really know.”

Towleroad scientists--anyone have a theory as to what these tiny towers might be?

Check out some more photos of the formations, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Scientists Baffled by Mysterious, Tiny Structures in Amazon: PHOTOS" »


Epic Nocturnal Time-Lapse Honors Europe's Greatest Buildings: VIDEO

Shepard

Photographer Luke Sheppard writes:

Nightvision is a celebration of the brilliance and diversity of architecture found across Europe. Over the course of three months I journeyed with a friend through 36 cities in 21 countries with the ambition of capturing some of the greatest European structures in a new and unique way. Comprised of thousands of carefully taken photographs, strung together and stabilized in post-production, Nightvision aims to inspire appreciation for these man-made landmarks.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

What's your favorite European landmark?

Gehry

Continue reading "Epic Nocturnal Time-Lapse Honors Europe's Greatest Buildings: VIDEO" »


Photographer Captures The Lives Of Transgender Parisians In 1950's Black-And-White Collection

Transparis

Christer Strömholm, a Swedish photographer living in Paris in the late 1950's, befriended and photographed the transgender communities of the place Pigalle and place Blanche neighborhoods, providing us with a glimpse at life on the margins.  

Transparis2Buzzfeed reports:

A little-known Swedish photographer, Christer Strömholm, visited Paris to experiment with a new style of night-time street photography. He immersed himself in the red-light district of Place Blanche where he beautifully captured through his lens the wide variety of young trans women struggling to make a living.

In 1983, Strömholm published his book, Les Amies de Place Blanche, with the photographs from his visit.

Inside he wrote a powerful introduction:

“This is a book about insecurity. A portrayal of those living a different life in the big city of Paris, of people who endured the roughness of the streets.”

“This is a book about humiliation, about the smell of whores and night life in cafés.”

“This is a book about the quest for self-identity, about the right to live, about the right to own and control one’s own body.”

...

“These are images of women—biologically born as men—that we call ‘transsexuals.’ As for me, I call them ‘my friends of place Blanche.’ This friendship started here, in the early 60s and it still continues.”

New attention has been brought to Strömholm's subjects as the photos have been released in a new version of the 1983 book, this time with stories and essays to accompany them.  

The complete collection of photographs can be found here.

Photos courtesy of Buzzfeed (Source:  © C.Strömholm/ Agence VU  /  via: messynessychic.com)


Intimate Gay Photos from the Past: VIDEO

Invocation

A collector of intimate images of men together shares a few:

My introduction to gay history - highlighting images I've collected over the last twenty five years, and how it felt to find them.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

2_involcation

Continue reading "Intimate Gay Photos from the Past: VIDEO" »


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