News » Glbt

NM commission rules photographer discriminated against gay couple

by Sue Major Holmes
Saturday Apr 12, 2008

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.-A professional photographer who refused to take pictures of a gay couple's commitment ceremony because of her religious beliefs violated New Mexico discrimination law, a human rights panel ruled.
Vanessa Willock filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission in 2006, contending that Albuquerque photographer Elaine Huguenin told her she photographed only traditional marriages. Huguenin and her husband, Jon, own Elane Photography.

The commission's one-page ruling Wednesday said Elane Photography violated the state Human Rights Act by discriminating against Willock on the basis of sexual orientation, and should pay $6,637 for Willock's attorney's fees and costs.

Willock, through her attorney, said in an e-mail that she was pleased by the finding.

"I feel that it is an important decision towards defining the responsibilities of business when they offer their services to the public in this state," she said.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian organization that defends religious liberty, plans to appeal to state district court.

"The fact she is a commercial business does not mean she loses her constititutional protection. ... The constitution prevents


the government from forcing people to choose between their faith and their livelihood," ADF's senior counsel, Jordan Lorence, said Friday.
The commission viewed Huguenin's business as a public accommodation, similar to a restaurant or a store.

Willock's attorney, Julie Sakura of Santa Fe, said the commission's decision based on a public accommodation "is the correct application of New Mexico law to the facts of this case."

Lorence argued that even if the studio were a public accommodation, it is protected by the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion. Elaine Huguenin, as a Christian, would not photograph such things as a horror movie or something showing abortion in a positive light, either, Lorence said.

"There's a great artistic component to photography, and a lot of messages are communicated with a wedding-type ceremony," Lorence said. "No one should be compelled to participate in a ceremony when they disagree with it. The government is compelling speech here in a way that violates the First Amendment."

He said the ADF will appeal "as far as it will go." The organization has 90 days to file its appeal.

The state Senate this year shelved a proposal to allow for domestic partnerships in New Mexico after critics expressed concern that the measure was similar to recognizing gay marriage.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


  • , 2008-04-18 19:35:13

    It wasn’t a one page ruling. It was about 20 pages. You just saw the last page.

  • , 2012-06-05 14:58:16

    Nah! Anonymous they got the first part correct; the original ruling was not only one page it was furthermore written in two paragraphs. Yet make no mistake about it whatsoever, the REPORTING of this case by Sue Major Holmes is, in fact, incorrect. Elaine Huguenin never refused to do ANYTHING! She was never asked to do anything, ergo, why is she considered guilty when the first part of the matter never involved her to do anything? Elaine Huguenin was simply asked for pricing information -- nothing more, nothing less. Sixty two days later -- is when Vanessa Willock recontacted Mrs. Huguenin about the verbiage used in Elaine’s email to Willock viz pricing information. It was during that email exchange that Huguenin was asked whether or not she did commitment cermeonies or civil unions. With me? Therefore, the only asking took place by Willock who asked Huguenin if she shot same-sex unions. Elaine Huguenin, knowing that civil unions or same-sex marriages were ILLEGAL in the state of New Mexico stated that she shot weddings, portfolios, portraits, and some special photography for athletes. That’s all! Having stated this I certain wish that someone would either print a retraction or by all means set the record straight.

Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook