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“It is the Price of Citizenship”?—An Elegy for Religious Liberty in America

Elaine HugueninBy Albert Mohler

Anyone who still doubts that the normalization of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage will represent a seismic shift in the culture at large needs only to look to New Mexico to see that nothing less than religious liberty is now under threat—and in a big way.

Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin are the owners of Elane Photography, a firm that operates as a commercial photographic studio. Elaine is the lead photographer and the Huguenins together run the business. In 2006, the couple refused to photograph a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony and were sued. Last week the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the Huguenins had violated the human rights of the same-sex couple and that the First Amendment does not allow Elane Photography to refuse to photograph same-sex unions.

The court’s decision was unanimous, upholding a 2012 decision by an appeals court. The court’s decision declared that the Huguenins had acted unlawfully in refusing to photograph the same-sex commitment, even when Elaine Huguenin had argued that to force her to photograph the celebration of a same-sex ceremony was to force her to function as a celebrant and thereby to violate her own conscience. That last part of the Huguenin’s argument has to do with the fact that photography is “expressive” as an art form. There is no way that photographing a same-sex ceremony would not require the professional photographer to arrange and construct photographs in order to artistically celebrate the same-sex union.

The court concluded: “When Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, it violated the NMHRA [New Mexico Human Rights Act] in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.” The court then further concluded: “Even if the services it offers are creative or expressive, Elane Photography must offer its services to customers without regard for the customers’ race, sex, sexual orientation, or other protected classification.”

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