Supreme Court Pans New Mexico Photographers’ 1st Amendment Appeal For Refusing Service To Same-Sex Couple

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Lesbian Wedding - Newlywed Women Showing their Rings

The Supreme Court is declining to hear the case of a New Mexico photography business that claimed its refusal to photograph a homosexual wedding represented a protected exercise of its free speech as delineated by the 1st Amendment.

The case arose from an Albuquerque husband-and-wife photo studio’s refusal to shoot a lesbian wedding in 2006, when Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin told a female couple they would shoot only “traditional weddings.” Although the female couple secured the services of another photographer, they filed a complaint against the Huguenins with the State Human Rights Commission. The ensuing case resulted, ultimately, in the “traditional marriage” defense losing out before the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The Huguenins petitioned the Supreme Court, arguing that they declined to shoot the same-sex wedding because of their belief that the 1st Amendment protects their right to control the message they send through their photographed work.

From USA Today:

“Of particular relevance here is the Huguenins’ sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” their petition said. “They believe that if they were to communicate a contrary message about marriage — by, for example, telling the story of a polygamous wedding ceremony — they would be disobeying God.”

That set the case apart from legislative efforts in some states to establish religious exemptions to anti-discrimination statutes. The Huguenins’ lawyers and supporters did not claim that businesses such as restaurants and hotels can refuse to serve gays and lesbians.

But the Supreme Court passed on the case Monday; therefore, the New Mexico Supreme Court’s decision will stand.

“The case would have posed an important constitutional question with potentially sweeping implications: whether merchants whose products are inherently expressive must serve customers even when it conflicts with their beliefs,” the paper observed. “That could include marketers, advertisers, publicists, website designers, writers, videographers and photographers — and perhaps others.”

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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