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Case

Elane Photography v. Willock

Last Updated: 5/29/2020

Overview

What's at stake

  • The ability of business owners and artistic professionals to express themselves without the government forcing them to express views with which they disagree.
  • The freedom of business owners and artistic professionals to decline to create expression that violates their religious beliefs without being punished by the government. 

Summary

Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin of Albuquerque, New Mexico, declined to photograph Vanessa Willock’s same-sex commitment ceremony because the Huguenins could not in good conscience tell the story of a ceremony that defined marriage as something other than the union of one man and one woman. Ms. Willock was able to find another photographer at a cheaper rate, but that was not enough. Ms. Willock filed a complaint against Elaine and Jonathan’s company, Elane Photography. In response, Elaine and Jonathan called Alliance Defending Freedom and asked for help.

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruled against the Huguenins, finding  that they had engage in unlawful discrimination in violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Act. The Commission ordered the Huguenins to pay Ms. Willock’s attorneys’ fees. Two state courts upheld the ruling. Alliance Defending Freedom then took the case to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which ruled against the Huguenins and rejected their constitutional and religious liberty claims. In a concurring opinion, one of the justices stated that violating their religious beliefs is “the price of citizenship” for the Huguenins.

Alliance Defending Freedom asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, but the Court denied review on April 7, 2014. 

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represented Elane Photography and defended Elaine and Jonathan’s freedom to decide which ideas they express with their photographic talents.

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Resources

Legal Documents

Court
Title
Date
{"docs": [{"Court": "SupremeCourt", "Title": "Friend-of-the-court brief from state attorneys general", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---friend-of-the-court-brief-from-state-attorneys-general.pdf", "Date": "12/13/13 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "TrialCourt", "Title": "Trial court order", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---trial-court-order.pdf", "Date": "12/11/2009 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "StateSupremeCourt", "Title": "New Mexico Supreme Court order for writ of certiorari", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---new-mexico-supreme-court-order-for-writ-of-certiorari.pdf", "Date": "8/16/12 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "StateSupremeCourt", "Title": "NM Supreme Court amicus brief from wedding photographers", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---nm-supreme-court-amicus-brief-from-wedding-photographers.pdf", "Date": "10/26/12 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "AppellateCourt", "Title": "Appellate court opinion", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---appellate-court-opinion.pdf", "Date": "5/31/12 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "StateSupremeCourt", "Title": "Petitioner’s reply brief", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---petitioner-s-reply-brief.pdf", "Date": "1/23/13 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "StateSupremeCourt", "Title": "New Mexico Supreme Court opinion", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---new-mexico-supreme-court-opinion.pdf", "Date": "8/22/13 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "StateSupremeCourt", "Title": "Opening Brief", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---opening-brief.pdf", "Date": "10/19/12 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "SupremeCourt", "Title": "Reply brief filed with U.S. Supreme Court", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---reply-brief-filed-with-u-s-supreme-court.pdf", "Date": "2/25/14 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "StateSupremeCourt", "Title": "Petition for certiorari to the NM Supreme Court", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---petition-for-certiorari-to-the-nm-supreme-court.pdf", "Date": "10/30/2017 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "SupremeCourt", "Title": "Friend-of-the-court brief from Cato Institute Dale Carpenter and Eugene Volokh", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---friend-of-the-court-brief-from-cato-institute-dale-carpenter-and-eugene-volokh.pdf", "Date": "12/13/13 9:22:22 PM"}, {"Court": "SupremeCourt", "Title": "Petition for certiorari filed with U.S. Supreme Court", "FileName": "https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/mainsite-new/docs/default-source/documents/legal-documents/elane-photography-v.-willock/elane-photography-v-willock---petition-for-certiorari-filed-with-u-s-supreme-court.pdf", "Date": "11/8/13 9:22:22 PM"}]}

Additional Resources

 

Audio: Ronald Reagan speech on religion in American public life, Aug. 23, 1984 (The World and Everything In It, 3:59)

 
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