April 7th, 2014 1:37 pm | Kate Willson News | Posted In: Gay Rights, Politics, Religion, PDX Votes

Supreme Court Won't Hear New Mexico Appeal of Anti-Gay Marriage Photographer

marriageequalitymarchA Rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, March 2013 - Elvert Barnes Protest Photography

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear the case of a pair of New Mexico wedding photographers who were found to have violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws by refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding ceremony, USA Today reports.

Oregon opponents of same-sex marriage are moving forward with a ballot measure that would provide a religious exemption to businesses who don’t want to provide services for same-sex ceremonies. Jim Oleske, a law professor at Lewis & Clarke said the New Mexico ruling could impact how other states including Oregon interpret laws regarding free speech and commercial businesses. 

Elane Photography told Albuquerque couple Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth in 2006 that it would only shoot "traditional weddings." 

The USA Today reports:

Willock and Collinsworth had no trouble finding another photographer for their September 2007 ceremony. But Willock filed a complaint against Elane Photography with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, charging that the snub violated the state's anti-discrimination law. Twenty other states have similar laws.

The Huguenins have been on the losing side throughout the legal tussle. The commission and the state's Supreme Court ruled that New Mexico's anti-discrimination law forbids for-profit businesses from turning down customers on the basis of sexual orientation. The court said the studio violated that law "in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races."

The Huguenins' petition to the Supreme Court was based on their freedom of speech, which they interpret as the right to decide what messages their photography conveys.

"Of particular relevance here is the Huguenins' sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman," their petition said. "They believe that if they were to communicate a contrary message about marriage — by, for example, telling the story of a polygamous wedding ceremony — they would be disobeying God."

That set the case apart from legislative efforts in some states to establish religious exemptions to anti-discrimination statutes. The Huguenins' lawyers and supporters did not claim that businesses such as restaurants and hotels can refuse to serve gays and lesbians. A measure that could have had that effect was vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in February.

Oleske said a Supreme Court case that could more directly affect the outcome of any ballot measure Oregonians might pass into law is that of Hobby Lobby. The company that has refused to provide birth control to its employees abased on the religious beliefs of its owners. The Supreme Court should rule on that case before the July 4 holiday.

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