Saturday, August 18, 2012

New Mexico Supreme Court to Hear Case Holding Christian Wedding Photographer Liable for Refusing to Photograph Same Sex Commitment Ceremony

Elane Huguenin and her husband,
owners of Elaine Photography
An interesting piece of litigation is set to be heard by the New Mexico Supreme Court.  The owners of Elane Photography, citing their Christian religious and personal beliefs, refused to photograph the same sex commitment of Vanessa Willock and her partner. Willock sued Elane Photography under New Mexico's Human Rights Act which prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodations.   Willock prevailed in front of the New Mexico Human Rights Commission and was awarded $6,637.94 in attorney's fees and costs.  The decision was upheld on appeal, most recently in a decision by the New Mexico Court of Appeals on May 31, 2012.

The fact the New Mexico Supreme Court has indicated it will hear the case strongly suggests it will overturn the decision.  And rightfully so.  The case law interpreted the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause is crystal clear that government must accommodate people's religious beliefs in its laws and regulations.  (You have a similar religious freedom provision in the New Mexico Constitution.)  Even if the New Mexico Supreme Court did not overturn the decision, I have little doubt that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court would net an easy reversal on First Amendment grounds.  Even the most liberal justices on the Court would probably agree that the New Mexico cannot compel the owners of Elane Photography to photograph an event in violation of their religious beliefs.

The legal blog Volokh Conspiracy has written on this case several times.  Click here to view the numerous articles on the subject.

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