Christian photographers lose last chance appeal over same-sex wedding case


The US Supreme Court decided on Monday to refuse to hear the appeal from two New Mexico photographers sued for refusing to document a same-sex wedding because of their Christian beliefs.

Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin declined to photograph the 'commitment ceremony' of Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth in 2006. It was called a 'commitment ceremony' because at the time same-sex marriage was not legal in New Mexico.

Ms Willock and Ms Collinsworth then made a complaint to the New Mexico Human Rights Commission which ruled in favour of the lesbian couple and fined the Huguenins $6,637.94 in legal fees.

When the Huguenins took the case to the New Mexico Supreme court in August 2013, the court ruled against them, arguing that having to take part in events one could not morally agree with was "the price of citizenship" and that the US constitution's freedom of expression clause "does not exempt creative or expressive businesses from anti-discrimination laws".

"The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different," the court decided.

"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."

The New Mexico Supreme Court also dismissed the notion that forcing the Huguenins to photograph a same-sex wedding would restrict their religious freedom.

"The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead," it continued. 

"The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more."

With the US Supreme Court refusing to hear their case, the Huguenins have no more chance to appeal and would have had to pay the legal fees had Ms Willock not chosen to waive the requirement.

The lawyers representing the Huguenins, Alliance Defending Freedom, say that the central issue in this case is still being fought in several other cases in the US.

Speaking to, senior ADF counsel David Cortman said: "Americans oppose unjust laws that strong-arm citizens to express ideas against their will.

"Elaine and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are not willing to promote any and all messages.

"A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear."

Similar cases include a florist in Washington State who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, a baker in Colorado who would not bake a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony, and a T-Shirt company in Kentucky who refused to print shirts for a gay pride march.

A Rasmussen poll in July 2013 found that 85 per cent of Americans agreed that a photographer should have the right to refuse to take pictures of a same-sex wedding if it contradicts their religious views.

Speaking about the case on ABC news, the American Civil Liberties Union said: "Every business has to play by the same rules to protect customers from discrimination in the marketplace."

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention was quoted by NPR arguing that the case had a deeper significance: "At issue is the fundamental question of whether the state can pretend to be a god over the conscience."