April 7, 2014 at 9:35 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Supreme Court won’t hear anti-gay photographer case
Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear the case of New Mexico photographer who refused to shoot a same-sex wedding ceremony (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday it won’t take up a case in which a New Mexico photography business alleges its rights were violated when it landed in hot water for refusing to shoot a same-sex wedding ceremony.

In orders published Monday morning, the court listed the case, Elane Photography v. Willock, without comment as among the cases it won’t consider.

The case was brought to the Supreme Court by Elane Photography, which was found to have violated New Mexico’s anti-discrimination law for refusing to take a photo for the same-sex wedding ceremony for Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth in 2006. (The wedding was only ceremonial because the incident took place before the state legalized same-sex marriage.)

Elane Photography filed lawsuit in state court, alleging that its refusal to photograph a same-sex wedding is protected on religious grounds. However, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against the claims, saying the businesses service can be regulated because it’s a public accommodation. Following that decision, Elane Photography asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the lawsuit based on First Amendment protections under the U.S. Constitution.

The court was scheduled to consider whether to take up the case during its March 21 and March 28 conference. To grant a writ certiorari, or a take up a case, at least four of the nine justices on the court must agree to consider lawsuit. It’s unknown what the vote was on denying certiorari in this case.

Had the court taken up the case, justices could have found a constitutional right across the country for individuals to discriminate against LGBT people or refuse services for same-sex weddings ceremonies on the basis of religion.

Anti-gay groups had pointed to the incident as a reason to enact laws in various states to allow individuals and business to refuse services to gay people without fear of reprisal, such as the controversial “turn away the gay” bill recently vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and signed into law by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant. Other bills along those lines are pending in numerous states — Kansas, Mississippi and Georgia — but have seen resistance going forward.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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    • Davidh

      I will take their money and perform the services they request: it is fairness, and it is lawful. What I won’t do is discriminate or turn away heteros who still think the nation is their own. And I want to see how these people observe their ‘religion’. How observant are they? Do they serve divorced persons, like Ronald Reagan?

  • Ex democrat

    It’s not so clear a victory for anyone. I guess gays can’t refuse people like Westboro and blacks can’t refuse the KKK. Love to see how that works. You can’t force acceptance. It comes with time and the recognition we’re all the same. One reason I hate the left.

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  • Leonard Daneman

    As a wedding photographer and paralegal in New Mexico, I have intimate knowledge of this case and the law that promulgated the controversy.

    First, a wedding photographer is not just providing a service, but becomes intimately involved with the people and ceremony that can extend over months, and is a contractual performance. In other words, photographing a ceremony puts the photographer up front and personal. It is a contract for employment, and thus there must be a meeting of the minds. If Elane was not comfortable with the homosexual lifestyle, that is indeed something that must be stated up front before contracting.

    As a paralegal, I was associated with the model code writer who wrote SB 28 (if memory serves) and I read the original bill. The original bill provided exemptions for small businesses with limited or no employees, and small rentals where the owner lived on premises, providing a right of the citizen not to associate with homosexuals. That exemption was struck out before being passed by both houses.

    The history of homosexuality, from the Sin of Sodom to sodomy laws, their repeal by Lawrence vs Texas and homosexuals becoming a protected class is clearly recorded in the legal record. As a protected class, homosexuals are now claiming 14th Amendment equal rights to be recognized in marriage, a contractual relationship associated with a great body of law protecting families created by a man and woman in which rights of succession of property first devolve to the children of bloodline.

    Because of the history of sodomy and the fact that same sex partners cannot consummate a marriage, nor produce children except ‘bastards’ out of wedlock, the idea that ‘marriage,’ which for eons and out of natural law has been man and woman and natural children born in wedlock, be extended to unnatural couples and out of wedlock births . . . this is a violation of natural law, an effrontery to traditional Christians, and such a contract should not be forced upon a person of conscience.

    Only in Sharia Law is a person ordered to comply against their conscience or face punitive taxes, the Jizyah . . . or Facism, is a person ordered to enter into contract.

  • Of course a wedding photographer should be compelled by law to serve a same-sex couple. Don’t bring up the slippery-slope issue of whether radical feminists should still be allowed to exclude trans* people from our festivals and gatherings, since that’s completely different.

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