Photographer Case Gets Review
Special Report - August 20, 2012
The New Mexico Supreme Court has agreed to consider an important case involving the conflict between pro-homosexual anti-discrimination laws and religious freedom. The case, Elane Photography v. Willcock, involves a Christian-owned photography company that was charged by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission with violating the state’s anti-discrimination laws for declining to photograph the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple. The outcome of the case could have a powerful impact on the rights of Christian business owners to operate their businesses according to their religious beliefs about marriage and family.
The case began in 2006, when a lesbian couple filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission after Elane Hugeinin, a local photographer who runs a small photography business with her husband, declined the couple’s request to take pictures of their commitment ceremony because of her religious beliefs concerning the definition of marriage. In 2008, the Human Rights Commission subjected Mrs. Hugeinin to a one-day trial, and ultimately charged the company with sexual orientation discrimination, ordering it to pay $6,637.94 in attorney’s fees to the plaintiff. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed an appeal of the Commission’s decision on behalf of the Christian photography company.
In May 2012, the New Mexico Court of Appeals agreed with the Commission and a lower court that “Elane Photography’s refusal to photograph [the same-sex commitment] ceremony” violates a section of the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which prohibits “any person in any public accommodation to make a distinction, directly or indirectly, in offering or refusing to offer its services . . . to any person because of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, spousal affiliation, or physical or mental handicap.”
ADF appealed the appeals court decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court. In an August 16 order, the state supreme court agreed to review the case.
“Americans in the marketplace should not be subjected to legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence in a statement. “We trust the New Mexico Supreme Court will agree because the government should not be allowed to force this photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience. The Constitution clearly prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to advance a message with which they disagree.”
The New Mexico case is an example of the escalating threat that pro-homosexual non-discrimination laws (which include “sexual orientation” and, more recently, “gender identity” as protected categories) pose to religious freedom. In a similar case in New Jersey, which allows civil unions, a Methodist-run camp lost its greenway tax exemption for refusing to rent its beachfront property to a lesbian couple for their civil unions ceremony. The State’s Civil Rights Division ruled in 2007 that the Methodist Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association violated New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law, which includes “sexual orientation” as one of several protected categories. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), at least 15 states, including New Mexico and New Jersey, currently prohibit discrimination on the basis of both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
Although North Carolina is not among the states with pro-homosexual anti-discrimination laws on the books, homosexual activists have been working at the local and state levels to get “sexual orientation” added as a protected classification, including recent efforts in the General Assembly to pass an employment nondiscrimination law that would include “actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.” So far, these efforts have failed at the state level.
A 2009 study by The Becket Fund for Religious Freedom warned that the legalization of same-sex “marriage” would increase the threat of nondiscrimination laws to religious freedom, and could “trigger” hundreds of these state-level anti-discrimination laws that include “sexual orientation.” Thankfully, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved a Marriage Protection Amendment in May 2012 that preserves the institution of marriage in the State Constitution, where it cannot be redefined by state lawmakers or the state courts.
Emerging Threats To Conscience - May 16, 2011
Pray And Act Movement - September 14, 2010
Court Ruling Will Suppress Speech - June 28, 2010
Legislating Gender Confusion - May 13, 2010
Freedom Of Religion Statement Issued - January 20, 2010
Interview with Timothy George - FNC Interview - January 2010
Christian Leaders Sign "Manhattan Declaration" - November 23, 2009
Connecting the Dots of the Homosexual Agenda - FNC - May/June 2009
Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty, Book Review - FNC - March/April 2009
Same-Sex "Marriage" Trreatens Freedoms - November 21, 2008
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