U.S. Supreme Court declines case on freedom of religion and same sex marriage


The Supreme Court has ruled that they will not listen to the case of a photography company based in New Mexico that refused to take the wedding photographs of a same-sex couple.

In 2006, Vanessa Willock approached the company called Elane Photography owned and run by Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin to ask them to be the official photographers for her wedding to Misti Collinsworth. However, the Huguenins are Christians who oppose gay marriage and have previously refused requests to take photographs of scenes that depict violence or maternity photographs that include nudity.

Elaine and Jonathan believed that taking photographs of the same-sex couple would breach their freedom of speech, because they considered their artistic photography as a method of speech. However, when they officially refused Vanessa’s request, she filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.

The complaint was upheld, but Elane Photography appealed, saying that their human rights were ignored under the First Amendment and a state law that protected their religious freedom to express their beliefs. Eventually the case reached the Supreme Court, but on Monday, April 7th the case was dismissed, upholding the original decision by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission that Vanessa and Misti’s human rights were violated.

There are laws throughout many American states that prevent for-profit businesses from discriminating against potential customers based on their sexual orientation. These laws have been incredibly controversial, with some arguing that it is no different from forbidding discrimination based on age, gender, or race, and others stating that businesses should be able to decide who they work with, regardless.

Objections such as the ones raised by Elane Photography are becoming more and more frequent, and many cases have been centred around weddings. For example, gay weddings have been the reason for problems with bakeries in Colorado and Oregon, and a florist in Washington.  The key problem within all of these cases is that on either side is a party claiming that their personal freedoms were violated. How are you meant to decide whose personal freedom is more important?

The decision by the Supreme Court has been hailed as a great victory by those that support same-sex marriage, and a continuing travesty against religious freedoms by those that supported Elane Photography. Perhaps fortuitously, the argument between the two parties is in some ways no longer important because Vanessa and Misti got married in 2007 – with a different photography company.

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