A right to discriminate against gay couples?

June 5, 2012

WASHINGTON — Attorneys for a Christian wedding photographer say they will appeal a New Mexico court decision that ruled she violated anti-discrimination laws by refusing to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony.

The case has become a cause celebre among some conservative Christians, who argue that this and other cases represent a threat to believers’ rights to disagree with homosexuality.

“Americans in the marketplace should not be subjected to legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs,” said Jordan Lorence, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the photographer.

The controversy began in 2006 when Elaine Huguenin, co-owner of Elane Photography, refused to photograph a “commitment ceremony” for Vanessa Willock and her partner. Huguenin claims her refusal was rooted in her Christian faith that views marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman.

The Thursday (May 31) decision by the New Mexico Court of Appeals upholds a 2008 ruling by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission in favor of the same-sex couple that was subsequently upheld in district court.

New Mexico law does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions for same-sex couples, but its Human Rights Act requires that places of public accommodation not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

For the ADF and conservative Christians, this is not a matter civil rights, but of government intruding upon citizens’ rights to act on their religious beliefs.

“Because the Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to promote a message they disagree with, we will certainly appeal this decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court,” Lorence said.

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