ADF files suit disputing N.M. commission’s ruling against Christian photographerPhoto artist told to pay over $6,600 in attorneys’ fees for declining to photograph same-sex ceremony
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit in state court Tuesday to appeal a ruling by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission against an Albuquerque photography company. The commission ruled that the company, run by a Christian husband and wife, was guilty of “sexual orientation” discrimination under state antidiscrimination laws for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony.”
“Christians in the marketplace should not be penalized for abiding by their beliefs anymore than anyone else should,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling people to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience. The commission’s decision demonstrated stunning disregard for our client’s First Amendment rights.”
A same-sex couple asked Elaine Huguenin, co-owner with her husband, Jon Huguenin, of Elane Photography in Albuquerque, to photograph a “commitment ceremony” that the two women wanted to hold in Taos. Neither marriage nor civil unions are legal between members of the same sex in New Mexico.
Elaine Huguenin declined because her and her husband’s Christian beliefs are in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony. The same-sex couple 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 in January and then issued an order in April finding that Elane Photography engaged in “sexual orientation” discrimination prohibited under state law, ordering it to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to the two women who filed the complaint.
“The government cannot make people choose between their faith and their livelihood,” said Lorence. “Could the government force a vegetarian videographer to create a commercial for the new butcher shop in town? American business owners do not surrender their constitutional rights at the marketplace gate.”
A copy of the appeal filed with the 2nd Judicial District Court, County of Bernalillo, in Elane Photography v. Willock is available here.
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.