Elane Photography v. WillockTo book an interview, click on the "Book an Interview" button on any page at ADFmedia.org.
Monday, December 16, 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. 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 New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the commission’s ruling, and Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.
Broad support for NM photographer reflected in new briefs filed with US Supreme CourtLibertarian same-sex marriage supporters among those backing freedom to decline participation in same-sex ceremonies
Monday, December 16, 2013
Attorney sound bite: Jordan Lorence
In August, a concurrence accompanying the New Mexico Supreme Court’s ruling against Elane Photography said that the owners, Jon and Elaine Huguenin, must abandon their freedom as “the price of citizenship.” Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court last month to review the case.
“The First Amendment protects our freedom to speak or not speak on any issue without fear of government retaliation. All Americans should oppose unjust laws that force citizens--under threat of punishment--to express ideas against their will,” said Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “As those who filed supportive briefs in this case understand, a government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.”
The Cato Institute and legal scholars Dale Carpenter and Eugene Volokh filed one of the friend-of-the-court briefs. Wedding photographers from across the country and state attorneys general from the states of Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia filed the other two briefs.
The petition Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 8 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.”
A July Rasmussen poll found that 85 percent of Americans 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. The editorial boards of both The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Times have recently agreed.
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
Monday, December 16, 2013
Previous news releases:
- 2013-11-08: Photographer asks Supreme Court: Is abandoning my freedom the ‘price of citizenship’?
- 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.