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Declining to Photograph a Same-Sex Ceremony: Is It Legal to Refuse a Gay Client?
Declining to Photograph a Same-Sex Ceremony: Is It Legal to Refuse a Gay Client?

The New Mexico Court of Appeals recently ruled against a photography company that said it refused to photograph a same-sex marriage ceremony. On May 31, the court upheld a ruling by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission against Elane Photography for violating the state's prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In 2006, Vanessa Willock asked Elane Photography in Albuquerque to photograph her same-sex commitment ceremony. Elane declined because it photographs only traditional weddings, not same-sex weddings. Willock filed and won a claim with the commission, alleging that she was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation. We collected the arguments over specific issues below:

Discrimination or rights of conscience?

The Alliance Defense Fund, which represents Elaine and Jon Huguenin, co-owners of Elane Photography in Albuquerque, argued that the Huguenins were simply sticking to their beliefs.

"Should the government force a videographer who is an animal rights activist to create a video promoting hunting and taxidermy? Of course not, and neither should the government force this photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience," said senior counsel Jordan Lorence. "Because the Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to promote a message they disagree with, we will certainly appeal this decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court."

Who's protected?

The court said there was a difference between denying services to someone who wants you to promote a cause you disagree with and telling someone that you will not work with them because of their sexual orientation. According to the court, Elane Photography had the right to refuse to work with children, for example, because ...

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June 2012

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