Refusal to photograph New Mexico same-sex couple ruled illegal

Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:08pm EDT

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(Reuters) - A New Mexico event photographer's refusal on religious grounds to shoot the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple amounted to illegal discrimination, the state's highest court ruled on Thursday.

New Mexico, along with 20 other states and the District of Columbia, has a law that explicitly protects individuals from being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. Another 29 states have no such protection.

In refusing to photograph the ceremony, Elane Photography violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act in the same way that it would have if the company had refused to photograph an inter-racial wedding, the New Mexico Supreme Court said.

"We conclude that a commercial photography business that offers its services to the public, thereby increasing its visibility to potential clients, is subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of the and must serve same-sex couples on the same basis that it serves opposite-sex couples," the court ruled.

Jordan Lorence, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom who represented Elane Photography, said he is likely to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We believe that the First Amendment protects the right of people not to communicate messages that they disagree with," he said in a telephone interview.

Joshua Block, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the couple, said the ruling rejected a "frighteningly far-reaching" argument for allowing private companies to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

"The Constitution guarantees religious freedom in this country, but we are not entitled to use our beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against other people," said Louise Melling, also of the ACLU.

The ruling came as at least two lawsuits by same-sex couples seeking the right to marry are working their way through the New Mexico court system. So far, the New Mexico Supreme Court has declined to rule on whether gay marriage should be allowed in the state, sending the matter to lower courts.

Thirteen U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, now allow same-sex marriage.

(Reporting By Edith Honan; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Leslie Gevirtz)

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Comments (9)
hawkeye19 wrote:
This filth is being force-fed down America’s throats in violation of our personal freedoms. This is criminal, but then so is the ACLU and Eric Holder.

Aug 22, 2013 8:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
JeffreyRO5 wrote:
Since the photographer is already violating two of the Ten Commandments, why should she expect to get an exception to a law, based on religious beliefs? The Ten Commandments forbid creating graven images, and working on the Sabbath (Saturday). Since this photographer routinely does both, how can she then claim she can’t violate her religious beliefs? She does so for a living!

Aug 22, 2013 10:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AGGNews wrote:
Photography is an art form, a visual expression. Art is routinely ruled as a form of speech.
Does this court decision actually compel a specific form of speech?

Aug 23, 2013 9:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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