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Human rights commission required artist to pay nearly $7,000 for declining to photograph same-sex ceremony

Related Case: Elane Photography v. Willock

ADF attorney sound bite:  Jordan Lorence

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund will appeal a New Mexico Court of Appeals decision that upheld a ruling by the New Mexico Human 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.”

 

“Americans in the marketplace should not be subjected to legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “Should the government force a videographer who is an animal rights activist to create a video promoting hunting and taxidermy? Of course not, and neither should the government force this photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience. Because the Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to promote a message they disagree with, we will certainly appeal this decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court.”

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. The two women eventually held their ceremony using a different photographer. New Mexico law does not recognize either marriage or civil unions between persons of the same sex.

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.

In December 2009, ADF appealed a trial judge’s ruling that upheld the commission’s decision in the case, Elane Photography v. Willock

       
  • Pronunciation guide: Name Lorence (LOHR’-ents)
  • Op-ed: “Marriage views not off-limits for businesses” (Jordan Lorence, Santa Fe New Mexican, 2/27/2012)
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.
 

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