Photographers Fined $6,000 for Refusing to Photograph "Homosexual Wedding"

onenewsnow.com/Legal/Default.aspx?id=75547
New Mexico commission orders $6,000 fine for Christian beliefs
Jeff Johnson - OneNewsNow - 4/11/2008 6:00:00 AM

New Mexico
A Christian law firm will appeal a ruling by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission fining a photographer who refused to take photos of a homosexual commitment ceremony.

Elaine Huguenin and her husband Jon, who co-own Elane Photography in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are both Christians. So when a lesbian couple asked them to photograph their “commitment ceremony” in Taos, the Huguenins politely refused. In response, Vanessa Willock filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission claiming the Huguenins discriminated against her because of her “sexual orientation.” On Wednesday, the Commission found the Christian couple guilty of discrimination under state anti-discrimination laws and ordered them to pay more than $6,000 in costs.

Should a Christian business owner have the right to refuse business they feel might compromise their personal testimony or their company policy?

Jordan Lorence with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) represented the Huguenins. He contends the lawsuit reflects an attitude among homosexual activists.

“This decision is a stunning disregard for religious liberty and First Amendment freedoms of people of faith, of Christians, and those who believe in traditional marriage defined as one man and one woman,” says the attorney. “This shows the very disconcerting, authoritarian face of the homosexual activists, who are using these non-discrimination laws as weapons against Christians in the business world and Christians in their churches.”

Lorence believes the Huguenins will win an appeal of the decision. But he warns this is how similar laws in 19 other states, and the proposed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, can be misused to silence biblical beliefs.

“There is a great threat to our religious liberties and our ability to speak out in favor of traditional marriage when these non-discrimination laws are interpreted in such a harsh way to censor Christians and others,” he asserts.

Lorence said Americans do not surrender their freedoms of speech or religion just because they choose to open a business. He added that the Commission’s decision is tantamount to the State of New Mexico forcing a vegetarian videographer to create a commercial for a butcher shop.

So the question is thus…

Would it be immoral to refuse to pay the fine?

I read about this case on the Volokh Conspiracy blog. According to one post, there is a built in religious exemption:

Recall that the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides that:
A government agency shall not restrict a person’s free exercise of religion * unless … the application of the restriction to the person is essential to further a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
*

Also, Huguenin’s lawyer seems to be advancing a two-pronged First Amendment claim, religious liberty and freedom of expression. See this post.
The theory is that a photographer is an artist & you cannot force someone to create art any more than you can censor them. Hmph. Well, cooking is an art. If you own a restaurant could you refuse to serve gay people? Or African-Americans if you have some wacky (but sincerely held) interpretation of the Bible?

Last but not least, why try to force someone to take your wedding photos who doesn’t want to? I work at a shelter for homeless families, about half of our clients are minorities, they get discriminated against every day. Do you think they waste their time running to the Human Rights Commission?
NO. Because they’re too busy looking for a place to live and a job to waste their time. And they know if they ever managed to force someone to rent to them or hire them against their it it would be a losing proposition anyway.

So HRCs across the country spend their time looking out for folks like this couple.

If I know Mark Levin, and I think I do, he’d be flipping out over this story if he heard it. Man, how I wish I could hear him rant about this.

It’s obviously a violation of the first amendment. Personally, I wouldn’t pay it, and I don’t think it would be immoral either.

I see the Human Rights Commissions have made their way to the U.S. from Canada. :rolleyes:

I see fascism is starting to win, after defeating it in World War II. :mad:

The petty part of me says that if the courts uphold this ruling the photographers might start having lots of trouble with lighting and focus. Oops, I guess that picture didn’t come out well. Darn.

What is missing in this story is a probably pre-existing contract. There are many photographers in New Mexico, you can shop around. If the photographer had a pre-existing contract to shoot the wedding ceremony (and get paid of course), then the photographer is in breach of contract. If he wanted to refuse, it would have been when he was first approached about this opportunity.

I agree with LRTHUNDER above.

We have to support people who get monkey-rigged with these kinds of charges. It’s a chilling deal.

If we don’t speak up for folks like these photographers, others will be silent when they come for you.

It sounds like the “couple” had an axe to grind. There is an industry building up around lawyers who recruit people who are protected by various government decrees and the lawyers use those people as a basis for a lawsuit.

If it were just about Contract (K) law then there would not be a discrimination law suit since one can only recover damages for the breach of K. One such remedy would be enforcing specific performance meaning the court forces the photographer to fulfill his part of the K. However, this usually can only be used if there is not another equitible remedy which there obviously is in this case. The solution would be for the person to obtain another photographer and the damages would be the difference in price and other damages incurred as a result of being forced to find another photographer.

Whatever happened to:

[SIGN1]We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone![/SIGN1]
:shrug: :rolleyes:

This is another case of Moral conflict. both sides claim to hold the moral high ground. This si why you can not allow the government to legislate “morality”. To often the government gets it wrong.

If this were a restaruant or establishment then I would agree that one would not have the right to enforce their moral beliefs and discriminate against a homosexual couple. However, this involves attending a ceremony and contributing to something which would be against one’s religion. This is where I think it will be overturned. Someone can’t force a person to photograph them having sex even though people do this so I don’t see how this should be different. This should not be about discrimination.

The ruling of the New Mexico Human Rights Commission is that the Huguenins’ business was a public accomodation, similar to a restaurant or store.
lcsun-news.com/ci_8893673

Also, it’s one thing to serve a gay couple breakfast, and an entirely different thing to help commemorate their wedding.

The trouble is (as one of the other posters mentioned) allowing the photographers to refuse service to the lesbian couple based on the fact that they’re lesbian looks (from a government standpoint) like any other kind of discrimination. I’m not saying I agree with the courts on this, but now that the LGBT community has managed to identify themselves as a minority group, it’s nearly impossible to stand up for your faith, without breaking the law.

I’m all for civil disobedience in a case like this. :thumbsup:

This is why we must oppose the gay agenda at every turn, at every opportunity.

It is in no way neutral.

Look to the UK. Look to Canada. Look to Massachusetts. Catholic agencies no longer do adoptions in MA or the UK because they refuse to place children in gay “families” because it’s against their belief. But, the law forces them to, so they stopped altogether.

Pretty soon we will be going to jail for practicing our faith. We can hold that off for a while by opposing people that would criminalize being Christian. They are doing it bit by bit, so maybe people aren’t noticing.

It’s like a frog being placed in water. Trying to outlaw Christianity outright now would be placing a frog in boiling water and the frog jumping out immediately. But what they’re doing is equivalent to placing a frog in cold water and then slowly turning up the heat, burning the frog to death.

Suppose you owned a restaurant called “Tofu Heaven: Home of the Vegetarian Barbecue.” If someone walked into your business and insisted on ordering the scorched flesh of slaughtered animals (aka, “beef”), should you be forced to get some and cook it for them? If you refuse, can you be charged with discrimination against omnivores?

I can agree with the idea that the “Huguenins’ business was a public accomodation” if they ran one of those kids photo places at Wal-Mart, where anyone can come in to get a portrait taken. However, photographing an event outside of an established business, like a wedding or a “commitment ceremony” requires a significant investment of time, equipment, and money, and involves an individual contract between two parties. I don’t see why the business should be forced to take a contract that may be detrimental to their business in terms of losing regular customers, etc.

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Only if omnivores are a protected class. In this case, it appears that sexual orientation is a protected class under New Mexico law. Thus, if it’s illegal in NM to do something based on race, it is likewise illegal to do it based on sexual orientation.

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