The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that a Christian photography company that refused to take pictures of a same-sex union violated the state’s Human Rights Act.
The photographers’ troubles began back in 2006 when Vanessa Willock asked Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin, owners of Elane Photography, to take pictures of a same-sex “commitment ceremony” in the town of Taos, New Mexico.
Jonathan and his wife refused the job because it conflicted with their Christian values, Fox News Reports.
Willock found a different photographer, at a cheaper price. However, she still filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission accusing Elane Photography for discriminating against her based on sexual orientation.
Justice Richard Bosson says the Christian photographers are “compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.”
In the court’s unanimous decision, Bosson writes:
“The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of their sexual orientation – photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony – than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims.”
Although the Constitution protects the rights of the Christian photographers to pray to the God of their choice, he warns:
“But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life. The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”
Attorney Jordan Lorence , representing the couple says that the ruling, in effect means gay rights now trump religious rights.
“Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country. This decision is a blow to our client and every American’s right to live free. If Elane Photographer does not have her rights of conscience protected, then basically nobody does. What you have here is the government punishing someone who says, ‘I, in good conscience, cannot communicate the messages of this wedding.’”
Amber Royster, the executive director of Equality New Mexico, says that the court’s decision was a big victory. She argues that forcing a business to offer a service to the public to abide by discrimination laws is not a violation of the First Amendment.
How will this ruling impact our freedom to practice the religion of our choice?