Photographers' Religious Liberty vs. Client's Request for a Photo Shoot

So event photographers Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin of Elane Photography in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were approached by potential client Vanessa Willock in 2006, who wanted Elane Photography to shoot her "same-sex commitment ceremony". On religious grounds, Elane Photography turned down the solicitation because "The message a same-sex commitment ceremony communicates is not one I believe," said Elaine. 

So Vanessa Willock brought a lawsuit against Elane Photography for discrimination, and this week the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Elane Photography violated the lesbian couple's civil rights under New Mexico's Human Rights Act.  That doesn't mean its true, it just means that an activist judge ruled it so.

Things to consider

-even by New Mexico's definition of civil rights, it is not a "human right" to have a photograph taken. 

-it is not a "human right" to get married, which is why marriage laws have conditions and requirements. 

-"same-sex marriages" are not legal in New Mexico, which means that it is not a violation of any "right" to be denied photo coverage of a "same-sex commitment ceremony" any more than a photography refusing to photograph a baseball game at someone's request violates a civil or human right.

-"Elane Photography didn’t refuse to take pictures of gays and lesbians, but only of such a same-sex ceremony, based on the owners’ belief that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. New Mexico law agrees, as it has no legal same-sex civil unions or same-sex marriages."  -Heritage Foundation

-other photographers in Albuquerque were available to photograph the ceremony

-Elane Photography is protected by the free exercise clause in the U.S. Constitution  and the government cannot force a private citizen or business to violate its own beliefs, or to act contrary to them. 

New Mexico’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the “free exercise” of Elane Photography. 

-this judgment violates Elane Photography's right to free speech

Here is a Brief arguing for Elane Photography.

The bottom line is that if photographers can be forced by the government, or any group or individual, to participate in a photo shoot that violates their conscience, then photographers become the clients and the clients become the master.  I would refuse an pornographic photo shoot, or one that celebrates a Black Mass, etc.  And as an American citizen I have every right to my beliefs and opinions.

I believe this ruling will be overturned if it goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.  If you as a photographer (or citizen) care at all about  your rights, you will be watching this case closely.

Amy Proctor2 Comments