The New Mexico Human Rights Commission has ordered a Christian photographer to pay $6,600 for declining to photograph a commitment ceremony between two lesbians.
The complaint against Elane Photography was filed by Vanessa Willcock, one of the two women in the union.
Elane Photography is small photography studio owned by Jon and Elaine Huguenin, a husband-and-wife team who are devout evangelical Christians and refused to photograph the same-sex ceremony for reasons of religious conscience.
The commission’s two-paragraph order stated that “Elane Photography, LLC discriminated against [Miss Willcock] because of sexual orientation.”
Mr. and Mrs. Huguenin was represented by Jordan Lorence, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), who argued that photography was a form of artistic expression, thus forcing the couple to photograph the wedding was a form of compelled speech prohibited by the First Amendment.
“It was a very short order [with] absolutely no reference to the First Amendment defenses that we raised,” Mr. Lorence told the Washington Times. “I find this a stunning disregard for the First Amendment issues in this case.”
“This is compelled speech; this is forcing a photographer to advance a message with her artistic skills that she would not do absent government coercion,” Mr. Lorence said.
The Alliance Defense Fund will be appealing the commission’s order to the state trial court in Albuquerque.
The attorney compared the situation to Canada where a number of prominent Catholic and Evangelical clergy have been fined by Canada’s human rights tribunals for publicly defending traditional Christian teaching concerning marriage. The ADF undertook the case because of the growing number of similar cases in which religious freedom and the right of conscience are being eroded.
“There is a strong tendency among supporters of nondiscrimination laws and hate crime laws to use them as weapons to suppress dissent against same-sex marriage,” Mr. Lorence said.
The case also has added a lot of stress at a time when Mr. and Mrs. Huguenin are expecting their first child.
“They are simply trying to live their lives according to their Christian beliefs and convictions,” Mr. Lorence said.