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Attorney General Strange files brief in support of First Amendment rights for New Mexico photographerscomment (0)

December 16, 2013


In support of the owners of Elane Photography in New Mexico, the office of Attorney General Luther Strange filed a legal brief in mid-December petitioning for the United States Supreme Court to take a case that has already been through the New Mexico’s court system.

In 2006, Vanessa Willock asked Elaine Huguenin — co-owner with her husband of Elane Photography — to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony” between Willock and another woman. Huguenin declined because same-sex “marriage” contradicts with her religious beliefs.  

Willock found another photographer for her ceremony, but also filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission accusing Elane Photography of discrimination based on “sexual orientation.” The commission found that Elane Photography broke the law and ordered the business to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to the two women who filed the complaint.  

The Huguenins appealed through the New Mexico court system — arguing that fining them for refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony that is against their Christian beliefs violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  

The state courts all rejected the Huguenins’ arguments, so they are now asking the United States Supreme Court to take their case. 

Strange filed the brief Dec. 13, joined by Attorney Generals from seven other states, in support of the Huguenins’ petition that the Supreme Court take the case. 

The brief argues that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution forbids New Mexico from coercing the Huguenins into photographing a same-sex “marriage.” 

Some highlights from the brief are below. 

“It is the considered opinion of the amici States that New Mexico crossed the constitutional line here. The government cannot constitutionally compel the Huguenins to create and express a message on one side of a contentious cultural and political issue.” 

“By compelling Elane Photography to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, New Mexico is unconstitutionally requiring the photographer to create expression with a particular viewpoint — approval, validation and celebration of the ceremony.” 

“It is one thing to compel a business to serve people on an equal basis without regard to sexual orientation; it is quite another thing to compel a person to create photographs that communicate a message that he or she believes to be profoundly wrong.” 

“Under this Court’s precedents, Elane Photography cannot be compelled to create or communicate messages about same-sex ceremonies.”

“Legislators and the general public could more intelligently craft and vote on legislation to address the claims of conscientious dissenters if they knew what protection, if any, the Constitution already provides to people like the Hueginins.”

(AGO)

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