At AP, New Mexico Ruling Against Photographer Who Refused Same-Sex Ceremony Work Not a National Story

In March, the Associated Press ran a 470-word "Big Story" item about the case of of Elaine Huguenin, an Albuquerque wedding photographer "who declined to shoot the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple." The couple filed an anti-discrimination claim with the state's Human Rights Commission, which found that Huguenin, who runs her business with her husband, had violated state law.

New Mexico's highest court upheld the commission's ruling against Ms. Huguenin on Thursday. Though the AP has an 11-paragraph story on the ruling by Barry Massey which several AP-subscribing outlets throughout the country have picked up, searches on Ms. Huguenin's last name which returned no results and no new "Big Story" result indicate that it is not present at the AP's national site. Especially since it was such a big deal five months ago, what explains the, well, light exposure? Excerpts from what AP management is apparently now treating as a local story follow the jump:


Court rules against photographer in gay bias case

A commercial photography business owned by opponents of same-sex marriage violated New Mexico's anti-discrimination law by refusing to take pictures of a gay couple's commitment ceremony, the state's highest court ruled Thursday.

In an unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court said the business's refusal in 2006 to photograph the ceremony involving two women violated New Mexico's Human Rights Act "in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races."

Elaine Huguenin, who owns Elane Photography with her husband and is the business's principal photographer, refused to photography (sic) the ceremony because it violated her religious beliefs.

... The court rejected arguments that the anti-discrimination law violated the photographer's right to free speech and the free exercise of religious beliefs.

A lawyer for the business, Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defending Freedom, sharply criticized the ruling and said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is under consideration.

"Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country," Lorence said in a statement. "This decision is a blow to our client and every American's right to live free."

Justice Richard Bosson wrote that the business owners "have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different."

"That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us a people," Bosson wrote in an opinion concurring with the court's ruling. "That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship."

It's hard to see how the essence of the ruling is anything other than this: "You can have your beliefs, but if you're in a business which sells anything to the public, you're not allowed to act on them. And if someone wants you to provide services in situations you find objectionable or even sinful — well, too bad, so sad."

Somewhere along the way, we have devolved to the point where any business which opens up a storefront or markets its services to the public is apparently considered a "public accommodation" which must serve everyone who wishes to purchase their product. That's not what I get from the following definition (bolds and italics are mine):

Privately-owned businesses and facilities that offer certain goods or services to the public -- including food, lodging, gasoline, and entertainment -- are considered public accommodations for purposes of federal and state anti-discrimination laws. For purposes of disability discrimination, the definition of a "public accommodation" is even more broad, encompassing most businesses that are open to the public (regardless of type).

But apparently trying to make an argument against that a wedding photography business is not a "public accommodation" was a non-starter. The Huguenins instead went with one based on artistic expression. As stated by Rod Dreher:

To compel a writer, photographer, painter, composer, or what have you, to put her talent into the service of something that violates their conscience is a serious wrong. If a gay photographer believed in good conscience that he could not photograph the wedding of Christian fundamentalists, then I think he absolutely should have the right to refuse, on First Amendment grounds.

The vast majority of Americans are on the couple's side at a more fundamental level:

Americans draw a fine line when it comes to respecting each other’s rights. If a Christian wedding photographer who has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage is asked to work a same-sex wedding ceremony, 85% of American Adults believe he has the right to say no. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only eight percent (8%) disagree even as the courts are hearing such challenges.

The fact that there is broad consensus with the common-sense position that you shouldn't be forced to do something which violates your core religious beliefs may partially explain AP's reluctance to promulgate it from its national platform. As Allahpundit at Hot Air noted:

... the more people learn the specifics of this case, how the gay couple sued her even though they’d found another photographer and then won attorney’s fees from her(!) on top of it, the more sympathetic they’ll be.

Pernaps sensing the national outrage, the plaintiffs waived collecting those fees. But that doesn't change the fact that they vindictively demanded them, or that the courts granted them.

In another possible indicator of press nervousness about the ruling becoming more widely known, the New York Times ran a story — and put it on Page A17 of its print edition.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.