SCOTUS Won't Hear Appeal From Wedding Photographer Who Refused to Shoot Same-Sex Ceremony

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 7 2014 10:37 AM

SCOTUS Won't Hear Appeal From Wedding Photographer Who Refused to Shoot Same-Sex Ceremony

A same-sex couple gets married at the Oakland County Courthouse on March 22, 2014 in Pontiac, Michigan

File photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The Supreme Court this morning declined to hear an appeal from a New Mexico photographer who refused to shoot a same-sex couple's ceremony due to her religious objections, via the Associated Press:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The justices on Monday left in place a state Supreme Court ruling that said Elane Photography violated a state anti-discrimination law when it refused to work for a same-sex couple who wanted pictures of their commitment ceremony.
Elane Photography co-owner Elaine Huguenin said taking the photos would violate her religious beliefs. She said she also has a right of artistic expression under the First Amendment that allows her to choose what pictures to take, or refrain from taking.

To be clear, Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth's ceremony was a "commitment ceremony," not an actual wedding, although that's because same-sex marriages are not legal in New Mexico. In the words of SCOTUSBlog, everyone involved in the case "regards such a ceremony as the equivalent of a wedding."

Here's my colleague Mark Joseph Stern with the insta-analysis of SCOTUS's decision to take a pass on this one:

"The court has: A) reaffirmed the status quo [the justices still haven't stated that religious objections can be used to override anti-discrimination laws], and B) relieved gay rights activists, who dearly hoped the court would stay away from this case. It's just too messy. By my count, it involves at least four separate issues: Hybrid rights [i.e., free speech rights combined with free exercise rights]; compelled speech; photography-as-speech; and a religious objection to anti-discrimination statutes. It's just too much for one case."

After Huguenin denied to photograph the ceremony, Willock sued under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which forbids "public accommodations" from discriminating based on a would-be customer's sexual orientation. The New Mexico Supreme Court sided with Willock, ruling unanimously this past summer that Elane Photography was covered under that law, and that the studio violated the law "in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races."

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 



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