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New Mexico Telegram » Courts, Featured, LGBT » State Supreme Court rules against woman who refused to photograph same-sex service

State Supreme Court rules against woman who refused to photograph same-sex service

NM Supreme CourtThe Sate Supreme Court ruled that a woman who refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, citing religious beliefs, violated the state Human Rights Act.

The co-owner of Elane Photography, Elaine Huguenin, refused to photograph the commitment ceremony because she said it went against her Christian beliefs.

The court, in an opinion by Justice Edward L. Chávez, said that this was the same as saying she would not photograph a wedding or commitment ceremony based on race.

“When Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, it violated the NMHRA in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races,” Chávez wrote.

The Supreme Court ruled that it did not violate free speech guarantees “because the NMHRA does not compel Elane Photography to either speak a government-mandated message or to publish the speech of another.”

At issue was Vanessa Willock contacting the company to see if they could photograph her commitment ceremony. The company said that they would only photograph “traditional weddings.”

Willock then filed a discrimination complaint against the company.

The company argued that it “did not want to convey through [Hugeunin]’s pictures the story of an event celebrating an understanding of marriage that conflicts with [the owners’] beliefs.”

The company said it would take photos of same-sex customers, but would not take photos of same-sex couples holding hands or showing affection.

Chávez’s opinion rejected this argument, saying that you cannot pick and choose which goods or services to offer to different protected classes.

“The NMHRA prohibits public accommodations from making any distinction in the services they offer to customers on the basis of protected classifications… For example, if a restaurant offers a full menu to male customers, it may not refuse to serve entrees to women, even if it will serve them appetizers.”

The court also rejected the argument that taking photographs of a same-sex commitment ceremony violated the owners’ free speech rights.

Elane Photography argued that it seeks to create a positive story about each wedding with their photographs and they did not wish to make a positive message about same-sex weddings.

The court ruled, “Elane Photography is compelled to take photographs of same-sex weddings only to the extent that it would provide the same services to a heterosexual couple.”

The court also says the state does not compel the company to take wedding shots. Instead, “that is the exclusive choice of Elane Photography.”

The entire ruling is available below.

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Matthew Reichbach has blogged about New Mexico politics since 2006. Matthew was a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and part of the original hirings at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation. In addition to politics, Matthew is an avid sports fan, especially of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and TV fan.

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