If pictures are worth a thousand words, do photographers have the right to determine the message that they communicate?
In 2006, Elaine Huguenin, a wedding photographer in New Mexico, received an inquiry from Vanessa Wilcox to photograph her same-sex commitment ceremony. Elaine respectfully declined. She and her husband, Jonathan, couldn’t in good conscience use their artistic talents to tell the story of a ceremony that conflicts with their faith. Ms. Willock found another photographer, but nevertheless filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.
The Huguenins started calling lawyers, and Jordan Lorence of Alliance Defending Freedom was the first to respond. He told them that Alliance Defending Freedom would take their case and provide free legal services, but they were in for a long, hard haul. “This could be big, guys,” he told them. “Are you prepared for that?”
Jonathan and Elaine committed to seeing the case through, even after they found out Elaine was pregnant. Despite the stress of media attention, hate mail, and even threats, the Huguenins believe this happened to them for a reason. “It’s been a trial, literally and figuratively,” Elaine said. “It’s been something that has brought us a lot closer to God. Although nobody in their right mind would ask for a trial, the fact that we’ve been able to grow through this has been really… encouraging.”
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled on August 22, 2013 against Jonathan and Elaine. One of the justices said that the Huguenins are “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” and he declared that this compulsion “is the price of citizenship.”
On November 8, 2013, Alliance Defending Freedom asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. Although the Supreme Court reviewed this request at three of its conferences, it declined to review the case on April 7, 2014.
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