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Photo artist forced to pay over $6,600 in attorneys’ fees for declining to photograph same-sex ceremony

Related Case: Elane Photography v. Willock

ROSWELL, N.M. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund say they will appeal a ruling by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission Wednesday because of its “stunning disregard” for the First Amendment.  The commission found an Albuquerque photography company, run by a Christian husband and wife, 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 penalized for abiding by their beliefs anymore than anyone else should,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence.  The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling people to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience.  The commission’s decision shows stunning disregard for our client’s First Amendment rights, and we will appeal this ruling in state court.”

A same-sex couple asked Elaine Huguenin, co-owner with her husband, Jon Huguenin, of Elane Photography in Albuquerque, to photograph a “commitment ceremony” that the two women 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.  The same-sex couple 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 in January.

Wednesday the commission issued an order finding that Elane Photography engaged in “sexual orientation” discrimination prohibited under state law and ordered it to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to the two women who filed the complaint.

“The government cannot make people choose between their faith and their livelihood,” said Lorence.  “Could the government force a vegetarian videographer to create a commercial for the new butcher shop in town?  American business owners do not surrender their constitutional rights at the marketplace gate.”

A copy of the commission’s order in Willock v. Elane Photography is available here.

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.

www.telladf.org

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