An Albuquerque-based photography studio violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act by refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in an opinion released today.
When Elane Photography "refused to photograph" the ceremony between Vanessa Willock and her partner, Misti Collinsworth, it violated the state's Human Rights Act "in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of two different races," Justice Edward L. Chávez wrote in the opinion. Elane Photography co-owner Elaine Huguenin argued that photographing the same-sex ceremony would go against her Christian religious beliefs and told Willock that her studio only photographs "traditional weddings."
Elane Photography is a commercial photography business that offers its services to the public, the court ruled, and is therefore subject to anti discrimination provisions of the New Mexico Human Rights Act—"and must serve same-sex couples on the same basis that is serves opposite-sex couples." The New Mexico Human Rights Act does not violate the photographer's free-speech rights, the court concluded, because it "does not compel Elane Photography to either speak a government-mandated message or to publish the speech of another." The New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act says a government agency shall not restrict a person's free exercise of religion unless the restriction does not directly discriminate against religion or the restriction is essential to further a compelling government interest. The court concluded that statute is inapplicable in this case since the government is not a party to it.
The four other justices on the court concurred with the opinion.
"On a larger scale," Justice Richard C. Bosson wrote in concurrence, "this case provokes reflection on what this nation is all about, its promise of fairness, liberty, equality or opportunity, and justice."
"At its heart," Bosson added, "this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others."
Here's the opinion in its entirety: