Ruling on Wedding Photog’s Refusal of Same-Sex Couple Explains How Law Applies to Annie Leibovitz
Last week, in their ruling that wedding photographers in New Mexico can’t refuse on moral or religious grounds to provide services to same-sex couples, the state supreme court justices were careful to note that state anti-discrimination law does not apply to commercial or fine-art photographers. The justices said the level of a wedding photographer’s artistry doesn’t matter, and referenced the work of Annie Leibovitz and Peter Lindbergh as a hypothetical example to make the point.
The appellant in the case, Elane Photography, was asking the state’s high court to overturn a ruling by a lower court that said Elane Photography had violated the law by refusing to photograph a commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple.
In rejecting Elane Photography’s appeal, the high court noted that the ruling applies only to photographers who offer their services to the general public:
“The reality is that because [Elane Photography] is a public accommodation [ie, a business offering services to the general public], its provision of services can be regulated, even though those services include artistic and creative work. If Elane Photography took photographs on its own time and sold them at a gallery, or if it was hired by certain clients but did not offer its services to the general public, the law would not apply to Elane Photography’s choice of whom to photograph or not,” the court said in its decision.
“This determination has no relation to the artistic merit of photographs produced by Elane Photography. If Annie Leibovitz or Peter Lindbergh worked as public accommodations in New Mexico, they would be subject to [the state's anti-discrimination laws].”