Photo artist told by civil rights commission to pay over $6,600 in attorneys’ fees for declining to photograph same-sex ceremony
Published On: 10/18/2017
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund will appeal a New Mexico judge’s decision to uphold a ruling by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission against an Albuquerque photography company. The commission ruled that the company, run by a young Christian husband and wife, was guilty of “sexual orientation” discrimination under state antidiscrimination laws for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony.”
“Christians in the marketplace should not be subject to predatory legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience. Should the government force a videographer who is an animal rights activist to create a video promoting hunting and taxidermy? American small business owners do not surrender their constitutional rights at the marketplace gate, nor can the government make people choose between their faith and their livelihood.”
“The commission’s decision demonstrated striking disregard for our client’s rights as protected by the First Amendment. We will appeal the trial court’s decision to the New Mexico Court of Appeals,” Lorence said.
In 2006, Vanessa Willock asked Elaine Huguenin, co-owner with her husband, Jon Huguenin, of Elane Photography in Albuquerque, to photograph a “commitment ceremony” that Willock and another woman wanted to hold in Taos. Neither marriage nor civil unions are legal between members of the same sex in New Mexico.
Elaine Huguenin declined because her and her husband’s Christian beliefs are in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony. Willock filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, accusing Elane Photography of discrimination based on sexual orientation. The commission held a one-day trial and then issued an order in April 2008 finding that Elane Photography engaged in “sexual orientation” discrimination prohibited under state law, ordering it to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to Willock.
ADF appealed the commission’s decision
to the 2nd Judicial District Court, County of Bernalillo, in Elane Photography v. Willock
in July 2008. The court issued its ruling
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.