May 24, 2009


A Christian photographer in New Mexico was found guilty last week of breaking state law for refusing to take pictures of a lesbian ceremony. Elaine Huguenin of Elane Photography was contacted in 2006 by a same-sex couple wanting pictures taken of their “commitment ceremony.”After Huguenin told them she only photographed traditional marriages, the couple filed a complaint for discrimination against their sexual orientation.

The case was taken before the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, which heard the case in January.

On Wednesday, the state commission ruled that Huguenin violated the state’s Human Rights Act. An order was issued for the photographer to pay close to $7,000 for the couple’s attorney’s fees. The Christian-based Alliance Defense Fund plans to appeal the ruling.

“Christians in the marketplace should not be penalized for abiding by their beliefs anymore than anyone else should,” ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence said. “The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling people to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience.

The commission viewed Huguenin’s business as one similar to a restaurant or a store, making refusing services an act of discrimination. Huguenin and her husband Jon own the business. “There’s a great artistic component to photography, and a lot of messages are communicated with a wedding-type ceremony,” Lorence added.”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.”

This year, New Mexico’s Senate downed a proposal to allow domestic partnerships. Critics were concerned it was too similar to recognizing same-sex marriage.

Sources: The Associated Press, Alliance Defense Fund, American Family


It’s always nice when newspaper articles are quoted without proper sources listed. Yes, the article “sources” at the bottom list the Associated Press, the Alliance Defense Fund, and the American Family News Network Print version, but just you try to search for Elaine Huguenin on any of those sites. You won’t find much. In fact, if you go to the American Family News Network site, you can’t really do a search of any kind. Instead, I suppose, you’re supposed to filter through the site to find an article. Very user friendly.

Regardless, I have Google, so I found some links to articles about the case, both on the One News Now site and on other, presumably less biased news sites. Feel free to browse the story for yourself.

New Mexico commission order $6000 fine for Christian beliefs

Artist hit for refusal on beliefs

Vanessa Willock vs. Elane Photography, LLC

The third link has the actual order from the Human Rights Commission that oversaw the case in New Mexico. That’s the one I’d recommend.

If the entire argument that SOSAnchorage.org has that business owners could be fined thousands of dollars if the ordinance passes is a newspaper article that I couldn’t validate, my work here is pretty much done.

However, in the spirit of what they were likely trying to argue, that business owners wouldn’t be able to discriminate against their clients based on sexual orientation, let’s take a minute to address their concerns.

From the actual, bona fide, proposed ordinance to add “sexual orientation” and “veteran status” to Anchorage’s anti-discrimination laws:

The public policy of the municipality is declared to be equal opportunity for all persons. The assembly finds that invidious discrimination in the sale or rental of real property, financing practices, employment practices, public accommodations, educational institutions, and practices of the municipality, based upon race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, marital status, age, veteran’s status, or physical or mental disability, adversely affects the welfare of the community. Accordingly, such discrimination is prohibited.

I didn’t see anything in there about business services.  Did you?  Look through the ordinance.  It’s very clear in what it does cover, rental of property, financing, employment, public accommodations, and education.  If a small business owner in Anchorage, say, a photographer, didn’t want to photograph commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples, I’d call them a rude name, but it wouldn’t be illegal under the proposed ordinance.

If business owners want to discriminate against their customers, it’s up to them and their own financial goals.



  1. Besides personal losses, a small business owner often loses the business itself. Lesbian

  2. I’m not sure about your counterargument. You seem to be claiming that a photography business like Elane Photography would be “business services” and so wouldn’t be covered by the ordinance. But in the New Mexico Human Rights Commission’s ruling in the case, they determined that Elane Photography’s services did in fact fall within the legal definition of “public accommodation” found in the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

    So, depending on how exactly our Title V defines “public accommodation,” it may be that a similar photography business would in fact fall under the ordinance. And then I stop to think: if an Anchorage photographer that advertised itself publicly (as Elane Photog. did) & then was caught out refusing to photography a wedding of an Alaska Native or a Samoan or a Filipino or a black person or even a white person because of race — would such a case fall under Anchorage Equal Rights Commission’s jurisdiction? I would certainly hope so. Even if the photographers were members, say, of a white supremacist church like Christian Identity with “religious” beliefs about nonwhite races. (Not that there is really any such race but the human race, of course.)

    So, no, I’m not convinced the NM HRC was wrong in their decision. Nor am I convinced that the “artistic” nature of Elane Photog.’s work is the same in nature as that of an photographer like, say, Ansel Adams — whose photography was his private vision. Would he have advertised his services as a photographer to the public on the Internet, if he was still alive today? “Tell me what you want me to photograph, I’ll photograph it.” No, Ansel Adams photographed what he wanted to photograph. Whereas Elane Photog. made its money from providing services to subjects of the client’s choosing. That’s the difference between the “private nature” of one person’s work, and the other’s work as a “public accommodation.” Or at least, that’s how I understand it.

    Going back to the Anchorage Baptist Temple fundraising-through-a-pack-o’-lies website’s argument, however, I find this claim by the ADF lawyer Jordan Lorence: “”No one should be compelled to participate in a ceremony when they disagree with it.” I agree with that. But in what sense were the photographers being asked to participate in a ceremony? Were they going to be forced to be bridesmaids? Best men? They weren’t part of the ceremony at all: they were only asked to photograph it. For a pretty sizable fee, too. Or maybe Lorence just takes the wide view & reckons anyone who is hired to work a wedding is a “participant.” The caterers? The florists?

    I also note that Vanessa Willock, who brought the discrimination before NM HRC, only asked for attorney’s fees. She could have asked for damages.

    Glad you’re doing this blog! You can find mine at Henkimaa.com — you can already find a link to your site on my “Equality” page, & you’ll be getting more notice on my blog in the morning … errr, later in the morning, after I’ve slept. (I’ve also let some of my contacts on Facebook know about your site, which I learned of by way of Mudflats comments.)

    Glad to find another part doing the honorable work of calling Dr. Jerry Prevaricator et al. on their lies,


  3. […] Anchorage Just another WordPress.com weblog « SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS COULD BE FINED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IF THIS ORDINANCE PASSES! DISCRIMINATION ISN’T A BAD WORD June 3, 2009 Discrimination Isn’t A Bad […]

  4. She broke the law. End of story. If she wants her religious beliefs to take priority over secular government, which must make sure all are treated equally, then she should move to a theocracy.

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