Appeal by photographer in gay bias case is heard

A photographer who refused to shoot a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony says she was exercising free speech

Topics: Gay Marriage, LGBT, LGBT Rights, ,

Appeal by photographer in gay bias case is heard

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — In a case that tests anti-discrimination protection for gays, a religious rights group told the New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday that a photographer who declined to shoot the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple was exercising her rights to free speech and artistic freedom.

The First Amendment should exempt Elaine Huguenin and her Albuquerque business, Elane Photography, from state laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defending Freedom told the high court.

He said gay marriage is against the photographer’s religious beliefs, and she should not be required to promote a message that violates her conscience.

An attorney for the couple, however, argued that the business openly advertises its wedding photography services, and as a public business is required to follow the same anti-discrimination laws as any other company.

After the hearing, Lorence called it an unusual case that takes the gay marriage debate to a new level.

You Might Also Like

“Nationally, there is a lot of debate about should marriage be defined as between a man and a woman,” he said. “One of the consequences is that it creates these rights of conscience cases.”

In another case, Catholic Charities in Boston has declined to allow gay couples to adopt children, he said.

Lorence said the case involving Elaine Huguenin is one of the first in which free speech rights were used as a defense.

“The point we are trying to make is that even people who have views that are contrary should not be silenced by the government,” he said.

Tobias Wolff, a University of Pennsylvania law professor representing the couple, said the only thing unusual about the case was the defense.

“The nature of the discrimination claim is very straightforward,” he said after the hearing.

Questions from the Supreme Court justices during the hearing centered on how to differentiate between photography being a business or protected artistic expression.

“Are there no limits to this?” asked Justice Richard Bosson. “Can you force an African-American photographer to take photos of the Ku Klux Klan?”

Justice Charles Daniels noted the Klan is not a protected class. But he did say the questions in the case revolve around the rights of the couple and the photographer.

The case stems from Huguenin’s refusal in 2006 to photograph a commitment ceremony between Vanessa Wilcock and another woman.

Wilcock found another photographer to shoot the ceremony but filed an anti-discrimination claim with the Human Rights Commission, which found Huguenin’s studio violated state law and ordered her to pay nearly $7,000 in attorney fees.

A state district judge and the New Mexico Court of Appeals have upheld that ruling.

It was unclear when the New Mexico Supreme Court will issue a ruling.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>