SCOTUS won't hear appeal from wedding photographer who refused to work with a gay couple

In order to take up a case, at least four of the nine justices must agree to hear it

By Katie McDonough
April 7, 2014 9:34PM (UTC)
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(AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from a New Mexico photographer who refused to work with a gay couple on the day of their commitment ceremony (marriage equality was not legal in the state in 2006), claiming that photographing the ceremony violated her religious beliefs.

In order for the high court to take up a case, four of the nine justices must agree to consider it. As usual, the justices did not provide a reason for denying the case.


The case stemmed from a 2006 incident in which wedding photographer Elaine Hugeunin, who owns Elane Photography with her husband, refused to shoot the ceremony of Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth. Elane Photography was then charged with violating the state’s anti-discrimination law, since New Mexico's anti-discrimination statute includes sexual orientation as a protected status.

Elane Photography filed the lawsuit in state court, claiming that its refusal to work with a gay couple is protected on religious grounds. The New Mexico Supreme Court rejected this claim, noting that the business can be regulated because it is a public accommodation. The case was then brought before the Supreme Court as a free-speech claim.

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case will close this particular matter, but the case has been cited by lawmakers in other states, including Arizona, as the inspiration for the recent spate of anti-LGBTQ laws that are being introduced under the pretense of protecting religious liberty.


Similar laws are advancing in other states, including Mississippi and Georgia.

Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Anti-lgbtq Discrimination Equal Marriage Marriage Equality Supreme Court