Elane Photography v. WillockTo book an interview, click on the "Book an Interview" button on any page at ADFmedia.org.
Friday, November 08, 2013
Description: In 2006, Vanessa Willock asked Elaine Huguenin—co-owner with her husband, Jonathan, of Elane Photography in Albuquerque—to photograph a “commitment ceremony” that Willock and another woman wanted to hold in the town of Taos. Neither marriage nor civil unions are legal between members of the same sex in New Mexico. Huguenin declined because her and her husband’s Christian beliefs are in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony, which Willock asked Huguenin to help her “celebrate.” Willock found another photographer for her ceremony, but nevertheless 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 2008 and then issued an order several months later finding that Elane Photography engaged in “sexual orientation” discrimination prohibited under state law. The commission ordered Elane Photography to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to the two women who filed the complaint. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys took the case to the New Mexico court system to appeal the commission’s ruling. The state’s Court of Appeals upheld the commission’s ruling, and Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys appealed it to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Photographer asks Supreme Court: Is abandoning my freedom the ‘price of citizenship’?Alliance Defending Freedom asks nation’s highest court to reverse unprecedented NM Supreme Court decision
Friday, November 08, 2013
On Aug. 22, the New Mexico high court upheld a decision against Elane Photography after its co-owner, Elaine Huguenin, declined to use her artistic expression to communicate the story of a same-sex ceremony. A concurrence accompanying the opinion concluded that Huguenin and her co-owner husband Jonathan “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” adding “it is the price of citizenship.”
“The idea that free people can be ‘compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives’ as the ‘price of citizenship’ is a chilling and unprecedented attack on freedom,” said Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to make it clear that no American has to abandon their constitutionally protected freedoms just to make a living. No American should be punished or put out of business simply for disagreeing with the government’s opinion on a moral issue.”
“Every artist must be free to create work that expresses what he or she believes and not be forced by the government to express opposing views,” added Legal Counsel Jim Campbell. “Should the government force an African-American photographer to take pictures of a KKK rally? A government that can force anyone to promote messages against his or her will is a government out of control.”
The petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court explains that the Huguenins “will serve anyone; they do not turn away any customers because of their protected class status. But they will decline a request, as the First Amendment guarantees them the right to do, if the context would require them to express messages that conflict with their religious beliefs. The New Mexico Supreme Court…held that the Huguenins do not have a constitutional right to be free from compelled speech because they create expression for paying customers. That decision conflicts with this Court’s compelled-speech precedent.”
A July Rasmussen poll found that 85 percent of American adults believe a Christian photographer has the right to say no if asked to take pictures at a same-sex ceremony that conflicts with the photographer’s religious beliefs.
In 2006, Huguenin declined Vanessa Willock’s request to photograph a commitment ceremony between Willock and another woman. Huguenin declined the request because her and her husband’s Christian beliefs conflict with the message communicated by the expressive event, which Willock asked Huguenin to help her “celebrate.”
Willock easily found another photographer for her ceremony, and for less money, but nevertheless filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission against Elane Photography. After a one-day trial, the commission ruled against the Huguenins and ordered them to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to Willock. The case then made its way through the New Mexico state court system as Elane Photography v. Willock.
- Pronunciation guide: Huguenin (HEW’-gun-in), Lorence (LOHR’-ents)
Additional resources: Elane Photography v. WillockScroll down to view additional resources pertaining to this case and its surrounding issue
Friday, November 08, 2013
Previous news releases:
- 2013-08-22: NM Supreme Court: Price of citizenship is compromising your beliefs
- 2013-08-22: NM Supreme Court to Christians: There is a ‘price’ for your beliefs
- 2013-03-08: Is artistic freedom in jeopardy?
- 2012-08-17: NM Supreme Court will hear case of photographer fined for adhering to her faith
- 2012-06-04: ADF will appeal NM court’s decision against photographer
- 2009-12-16: ADF to appeal court decision against NM photographer
- 2008-07-01: ADF files suit disputing N.M. commission’s ruling against Christian photographer
- 2008-01-25: ADF attorney available to media following hearing in complaint against N.M. photographer
- Audio: Ronald Reagan speech on religion in American public life, Aug. 23, 1984 (The World and Everything In It, 3:59)
Legal documents, related news, and other related resources available in the right panel when this page is viewed at ADFmedia.org.