Christian Studio Can't Refuse To Photograph Lesbian Couple, Court Rules

lesbian wedding couple discrimination photographyALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A professional photographer who refused to take pictures of a gay couple's commitment ceremony violated state anti-discrimination laws, the New Mexico Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court on Thursday agreed with a previous ruling, in which a district court judge said the photo studio is considered public, similar to a restaurant or store, and cannot refuse service based on sexual orientation, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The photography studio had argued that its refusal was not an act of discrimination but a reflection of the owners' religious and moral beliefs. Vanessa Willock asked the studio, Elane Photography, in 2006 about taking pictures of a same-gender ceremony but was told it handled only traditional weddings. When her partner contacted the studio without revealing her sexual orientation, she was given a price list and sent a follow-up email.

Willock filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, which ruled that Elane Photography violated the state Human Rights Act and ordered it to pay nearly $7,000 in legal fees. A district court later upheld the commission's ruling.

Appellate court Judge Tim Garcia said a 1981 state Supreme Court case expanded the concept of public accommodation to include nontraditional and non-historic businesses. The opinion is in line with a national trend, said Tobias Barrington Wolff, a University of Pennsylvania School of Law professor who represented Willock on appeal.

"I really think what's most important about this case is that it is the first time (New Mexico) appellate courts have talked about scope of the statute in a really comprehensive way," he said.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based legal alliance of Christian attorneys and others that represented the studio, plans to appeal. Elane Photography argued that it provided discretionary, unique and expressive services that aren't a public accommodation under the Human Rights Act.

The studio asked hypothetically whether an African-American photographer would be required to photograph a Ku Klux Klan rally.

The court responded: "The Ku Klux Klan is not a protected class. Sexual orientation, however, is protected."

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Jim B

One way around this would be for the photographer or other Christian business being coerced into doing something against their religion to give a shoddy, sloppy product. Homos could easily go elsewhere but they are simply trying to force everyone to be a part of their sick lifestyle.

May 18 2013 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Soon, it will become churches who will be forced to marry. same sex couples Even though the Bible clearly states it is an abomination to the Lord.. I know I know the whole church and state separation thing, but it will come down to this.

By the way, in Canada and the UK, both countries that have embraced 'same sex' marriage, it is ILLEGAL for a pastor/preacher to preach from the pulpit in a church that homosexuality is a sin, which the Bible clearly states. It is considered to be 'hate speech'. This will be coming to America, just watch. We need to pay attention to what is going on with the rest of the world. This is how they will silence the church (Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion) on the subject of homosexuality.

June 23 2012 at 1:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think these same sex people are going too far. they are forcing their so called rights on people and the courts are protecting about the rights of people who dont accept gay marriages where are their rights?I beleive Pastors. or anyone who does not accept gay marriages should not have to be forced to do what they know is wrong. Jesus never forced anyone to accept or beleive in him. they either did or didnt. same thing as today. dont force us to accept what you call a marriage .

June 15 2012 at 7:25 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tgmarks's comment
Hello Patricia

I agree. Why would you want a person or company to provide a service for you that clearly does not want to anyway. I would not expect good service for my money and would want someone who will do a great job. this is just another ploy for money and to force their wants on others. They want to do their thing fine.. they have their rights to now.. but don't force others to be witness to it if they do not want to.

June 15 2012 at 11:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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