In 2006, Vanessa Wilcock sued Elane Photography for refusing to photograph her commitment ceremony with her partner. Consisting of husband and wife team Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, the company politely declined, stating that it did not photograph same-sex ceremonies.
Wilcock did what any rational person would do and found another photographer willing to work within her parameters. Oh wait, no she didn’t -- she filed a lawsuit against the Christian couple for violating the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA). For equality!
The court sided with Wilcock, then Elane Photography appealed, and last week, the Court of Appeals of the State of New Mexico upheld the lower court’s decision. Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin were found guilty of unlawfully discriminating against lesbians.
What happened to the right to refuse service?
This is not a civil rights issue; it’s a freedom of religion issue. Like it or not, homosexuality is a lifestyle, whether one is born with the innate desire to live it or chooses it him or herself. Wilcock and her partner were specifically demanding that the couple behind Elane Photography act in a way that is contrary to their belief system.
The Huguenins were not on a crusade to end homosexuality, or petitioning other businesses not to take on gay couples. They only declined to photograph a particular couple because they felt uncomfortable doing so. What business is it of the government’s to decide what articles of faith someone might practice?
Freedom of choice in the country is a fantastic thing. Gay people are no longer forced to live in the shadows of society, hiding their ‘shameful’ secret from friends and family. That doesn’t mean that they have higher status than other people, or that their rights trump anyone else’s.
A person’s rights end where someone else’s begins … except for gay people in New Mexico. Their rights apparently supersede freedom of religion and expression, not to mention the free market.
Image via Annafur/Flickr