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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

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court agreed Thursday to review the case of an Albuquerque photographer forced to pay nearly $7,000 for declining to use her artistic expression to help two women “celebrate” a same-sex “commitment” ceremony.

 

In June, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom appealed a New Mexico Court of Appeals decision that upheld a New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruling against the Christian photographer, who runs her photography business with her husband. The commission ruled that the company was guilty of “sexual orientation” discrimination under state antidiscrimination laws.

“Americans in the marketplace should not be subjected to legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs,” said Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “We trust the New Mexico Supreme Court will agree because the government should not be allowed to force this photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience. The Constitution clearly prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to advance a message with which they disagree.”

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. After Elaine declined the request to help them “celebrate” the event, the two women found someone else to photograph their ceremony. 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.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys appealed the commission’s decision in the case, Elane Photography v. Willock, in the New Mexico court system.

       
  • Pronunciation guide: Name Lorence (LOHR’-ents)

Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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