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NM Supreme Court: Price of citizenship is compromising your beliefs

State high court issues decision against photographer for acting according to her religious convictions

SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Thursday against a photographer who declined to use her artistic expression to communicate the story of a same-sex ceremony. In a concurrence accompanying the opinion, one of the justices wrote that the photographer and her husband, Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” adding “it is the price of citizenship.”

“The idea that free people can be ‘compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives’ as the ‘price of citizenship’ is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom,” said Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “Americans are now on notice that the price of doing business is their freedom. We are considering our next steps, including asking the U.S. Supreme Court to right this wrong.”

A Rasmussen poll last month found that “If a Christian wedding photographer who has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage is asked to work a same-sex wedding ceremony, 85% of American adults believe he has the right to say no.”

In other statements in the concurrence, Justice Richard C. Bosson wrote, “At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others…. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people…. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.”

In 2006, Elaine Huguenin, who operates Elane Photography together with her husband, declined Vanessa Willock’s request to photograph a commitment ceremony that Willock and another woman wanted to hold in the town of Taos. Huguenin declined the request because her and her husband’s Christian beliefs conflict with the message communicated by the expressive event, which Willock asked Huguenin to help her “celebrate.” New Mexico law does not recognize either marriage or civil unions between persons of the same sex.

Willock found another photographer for her ceremony, but nevertheless filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission against Elane Photography.

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. The case then made its way through the New Mexico state court system as Elane Photography v. Willock.

  • Pronunciation guide: Huguenin (HEW’-gun-in)


Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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Jordan Lorence
Jordan Lorence
Senior Counsel, Director of Strategic Engagement
Jordan Lorence serves as senior counsel and director of strategic engagement with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he plays a key role with the Strategic Relations and Training Team.