The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the case of a Christian wedding photographer fined after she refused to photograph a gay couple’s commitment ceremony. Following its usual practice, the court did not give any explanation for its denial. The order rejecting the case means that the lower court ruling, which said the photographer’s refusal amounted to discrimination, will be the final word on the case.
The New Mexico Human Rights Commission levied a $6,637.94 fine on Elaine Huguenin, who runs Elane Photography with her husband Jonathan Huguenin, after she refused to photograph the 2007 ceremony. The commission said Huguenin discriminated against the lesbian couple. Huguenin is a Christian and cited her belief in the traditional definition of marriage as the reason for her refusal. In August, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the commission’s ruling, saying that under the law her refusal was the same as if she had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.
The lawyers for Elane Photography argued in lower courts that the commission’s ruling violated Huguenin’s free exercise of religion and her free speech rights. But in presenting their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the lawyers dropped the religion argument, focusing instead on the violation of her free speech. They argued that photography is artistic expression, and that Huguenin should be able to choose what message she communicates. If her photography was considered artistic expression, it would not be a service generally available to the public. Businesses that serve the general public in New Mexico cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Several other cases of Christian-owned businesses, including a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple’s ceremony, also are winding through the courts.
Listen to Nick Eicher discuss this case with Alliance Defending Freedom’s Jordan Lorence on The World and Everything in It: