Appeal By Photographer in Gay Bias Case is Heard
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.
"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.