According to the Family Research Council (FRC), the case involves Elaine and Jon Huguenin of Elane Photography in Albuquerque who were approached in 2008 by lesbian Vanessa Willock to take pictures of her same sex ceremony. The Huguenins declined, saying that they only handled "traditional weddings." Although Willock found another photographer, she and her partner filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission (HRC).
A year later, the commission ruled in favor of Willock and charged Elane Photography with "sexual orientation discrimination." The couple was ordered to pay $6,637.94 in attorney's fees. The Huguenins, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), appealed the ruling saying that Elane Photography is a private company and therefore has the freedom to determine who they will and will not serve.
The appeals court disagreed with the Huguenins and sided with the Commission's ruling, which sent the case to the New Mexico Court of Appeals which ultimately upheld the Commission.
ADF attorney Jordan Lorence said the rulings show a stunning disregard of the Huguenins' First Amendment rights.
"Should the government force a videographer who is an animal rights activist to create a video promoting hunting and taxidermy?" Lorence asked. "Of course not, and neither should the government force this photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience."
The courts are viewing the case of Elane Photography through the lens of political correctness--not the Constitution, which, as Lorence points out, "protects people's expression of their views, even when it comes in a commercial context. Business owners do not surrender their constitutionally protected rights at the marketplace gate."
He compared the Huguenin's decision not to serve same-sex couples to the widely publicized decision of Antonion Darden, a hairdresser who refused to cut Governor Susana Martinez's hair because she does not support same-sex marriage.
"In order to operate his business according to his beliefs and make a public statement against the governor's position on marriage, he is refusing to offer his services to her. Many admire Darden for his courage," Lorence writes in this op-ed.
Should the Governor decide to press charges, and the HRC rule against Darden and force him to pay all of her attorney fees, "many would be outraged by such a misuse of anti-discrimination laws to punish someone with views different from the governor's," he writes.
But that's exactly what the HRC has done to the Huguenins.
"Both Darden and Elane Photography have the right to decline to provide services to people with whom they disagree about what marriage truly is. I don't think many would accuse Darden of bigotry and discrimination against Gov. Martinez, and they shouldn't level that same accusation against Elane Photography either," Lorence said.
"Business owners do not surrender their constitutionally protected rights at the marketplace gate. Although Antonio Darden and Elane Photography disagree on the definition of marriage, both should have their rights protected to operate their businesses within the protections of the First Amendment."
"Unfortunately, this is just a snapshot of what's happening around the country in business, sports, Hollywood, and schools," said FRC president Tony Perkins. "Homosexual activists are absolutely determined to punish people who refuse to embrace and celebrate their lifestyle choices. Isn't that what the Obama administration has done with its mandate on contraception and abortion pills? If the Left can't crowd conservatives out of the marketplace, then it will enlist the courts or the White House to force them out--whether it's Constitutional or not."
The Huguenins intend to pursue the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
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