US Supreme Court Declines New Mexico Wedding Photog’s Discrimination Case
A New Mexico photographer who has been held liable for violating state anti-discrimination laws by refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding has been turned away by the US Supreme Court, where she had sought a review of her case.
Elaine Huguenin, owner of Elane Photography of Albuquerque, had asked the US Supreme Court to overturn a series of lower court rulings that found her in violation New Mexico human rights laws for discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
The high court declined today without comment to hear Elane Photography’s appeal, effectively upholding three lower court rulings against her.
Huguenin had refused for religious reasons in 2006 to photograph the commitment ceremony of Vanessa Willock and her partner, Misty Pascottini. Willock filed a complaint to the The New Mexico Human Rights Commission, which ruled in 2008 that Huguenin had violated the state’s anti-dscrimination law.
Huguenin appealed to a New Mexico district court, the New Mexico Court of Appeals, and the New Mexico State Supreme Court. All three upheld the NMHRC ruling.
In appealing to the US Supreme Court for a hearing, Huguenin argued that she should be free under the First Amendment to express herself as a photographer, and that any compulsion to shoot same-sex weddings under New Mexico’s anti-discrimination laws amounted to government-compelled speech that violated her civil rights.
In refusing to hear the case, the US Supreme Court effectively upheld the decision last summer by New Mexico State Supreme Court justice Edward L. Chávez.
He wrote in that decision: “A commercial photography business that offers its services to the public, thereby increasing its visibility to potential clients, is subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of the [New Mexico Human Rights Act] and must serve same-sex couples on the same basis that it serves opposite-sex couples.”
Chávez also said in his decision that New Mexico’s human rights law doesn’t compel Elane Photography “to either speak a government-mandated message or to publish the speech of another.”And he said those offering services to the public do not have to give up their First Amendment rights under the the state human rights law because “[t]hey may, for example, post a disclaimer on their website or in their studio advertising that they oppose same-sex marriage but that they comply with applicable anti-discrimination laws.”