Attorneys for a small photography company charged with violating anti-discrimination laws for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony” are planning to appeal a New Mexico judge’s decision to uphold the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission’s ruling against them.
The Albuquerque company, Elane Photography, is co-owned by Elaine Huguenin and her husband Jon. They are being represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF).
In 2006 a woman named Vanessa Willock asked them to photograph a “commitment ceremony” that she and another woman wanted to hold in Taos, N.M. State law does not recognize homosexual unions.
Elaine Hugenin declined because her and her husband’s Christian beliefs conflicted with the message communicated by the ceremony, the ADF said. Willock 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 and issued an order in April 2008 finding that the company engaged in discrimination prohibited under state law. The commission ordered the company to pay Willock $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees.
“Christians in the marketplace should not be subject to predatory legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence. “The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience. Should the government force a videographer who is an animal rights activist to create a video promoting hunting and taxidermy?
“American small business owners do not surrender their constitutional rights at the marketplace gate, nor can the government make people choose between their faith and their livelihood,” he continued.
Lorence charged that the commission’s decision showed a “striking disregard” for the company’s rights. He said the decision will be appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.