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].”

The full story about the case is at

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8 Responses to “Ruling on Wedding Photog’s Refusal of Same-Sex Couple Explains How Law Applies to Annie Leibovitz”

  1. Lenny Says:

    So basically the law provisions that any photographer who works for the public must also photograph anything they are asked to as long as it is not illegal or causing harm to anyone? That is not law in the interest of the people… that is bureaucratic BS.

  2. Don Says:

    Here is an idea, if you do not want to be slapped with and anti-discrimination suit, just say you are not available to photograph on the day that is requested.

    It is sad that a photographer can’t stand by their personal beliefs by stating they do not agree with same-sex marriage and refuse to photograph the ceremony without the fear of being punished by the law or sued.

    Welcome to America

  3. Denny Says:

    I’m all for same-sex marriage. Whatever makes people happy is cool. I’d gladly photograph a same-sex marriage. Work is work after all, BUT I do not like the idea of the government stepping in and telling small business owners who they HAVE to photograph.

    It’s not enough that small businesses like self-employed photographers are completely raped by the IRS while huge corporations get tax cuts, now they have the right to force photographers to take jobs they may be uncomfortable with?

  4. Bruce Says:

    Excellent and lucid ruling. A photographer offering service to the general public may no more discriminate than a coffee shop, restaurant or hardware store.

    What you offer to one party you must offer to all parties.

    Telling the silly comments above. The United Sates has a long way to go and sadly may be headed in the wrong direction.

  5. Nick Says:

    Lenny, Don, Denny: so let me ask, you’d also be perfectly comfortable with a racist photographer refusing to photograph a mixed race couple as it’s “their personal beliefs” that the races shouldn’t intermarry? Really? Are you sure you don’t think you want to rethink your stance on this? Please, don’t act this is some kind of libertarian stand against “bureaucratic BS”, you’re simply standing up for discrimination, pure and simple.

  6. James Says:

    Bruce, Nick, having a religion or a faith is not equal to bigotry. Atheism is a religion, by the way. I love it with you guys who want it both ways, hypocrites!

    So if you’re a strict Atheist and you’re asked to photograph a baptism but refuse on your “religious” grounds, and the courts fine you for refusal of service due to discrimination, that’s also OK?

  7. Brian Says:

    I believe that if a photographer didn’t want to photograph a mixed-race marriage, then that’s on them. Their loss, my gain – if others don’t want to work the mixed race marriages, then it’s more business for me. Why should anyone be forced to do work they don’t want to do? Same for the same sex couples. BTW, if you ask me to do your same sex wedding – I’ll do it, but you might not like your photos, because I would only do it because the “Law” forced me to. Is that the type of photographer that you would want working your same sex wedding?

  8. Mark Says:

    For James (and the others who believe discrimination in the name of their “beliefs” is OK) – I assume you are a Christian. Does that mean you won’t photograph a Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, or other non-Christian ceremony? If you owned a hotel or a restaurant, would your beliefs allow you not to serve a same-sex couple? Or if you were looking to hire an assistant that you could refuse to hire someone in a same-sex relationship, civil union or marriage? Religion has in the past been used to justify discrimination against many (research how many “white” churches in the south preached against desegregation in the “civil rights era,” not to mention the cross burnings by the KKK and other racist organizations. Given that you believe “we” are God’s children, how is it permissible in the name or your religion to discriminate against some of God’s children? In our society, people who harbor racist, prejudiced, or discriminatory views may hold those views in their private activity. But, when it comes to offering services to the public, as the judge noted, they are subject to anti-discrimination requirements. Nobody forced you into offering your service to the public, but if you do compliance with anti-discrimination laws is the price paid for living and working in our society where discrimination is not permitted. By the way, government is us – we elect the legislators who pass the laws and executives (President, Governor, Mayor, etc.) who sign the laws. Perhaps you would feel more comfortable in a place like Russia, where those who promote same-sex relationships are subject to imprisonment.