Justices Reject Wedding Photographer on Same-Sex Ceremony

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal from a New Mexico wedding photographer found to have violated a state anti-discrimination law when she refused to take pictures of a commitment ceremony for a same-sex couple.

The photographer, Elaine Huguenin, argued unsuccessfully that she was being unconstitutionally forced to convey a message conflicting with her religious beliefs. She was seeking to overturn a ruling against her company, Elane Photography LLC, by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. The high court made no comment in rejecting the appeal.

The rebuff comes as the Supreme Court weighs a major religious-rights case centering on President Barack Obama’s health-care law. The issue in that case is whether for-profit companies can claim a religious exemption from the requirement that employers cover birth control as part of worker-insurance plans. The court will rule by July.

The New Mexico case turned on a different legal issue than the health-care dispute. Huguenin’s appeal focused primarily on the speech clause in the Constitution’s First Amendment, rather than the religious-freedom protections that are involved in the birth-control case.

In Conflict

Huguenin argued that the New Mexico law, as interpreted by the appeals court in her case, “requires individuals who create expression for a living -- like marketers, advertisers, publicists and website designers -- to speak in conflict with their consciences.”

The rejection is a victory for Vanessa Willock, who filed a complaint against Elane Photography in 2006 after Huguenin said she wouldn’t photograph Willock’s commitment ceremony. Willock urged the Supreme Court not to intervene.

The Supreme Court “has repeatedly held that businesses operating in the public marketplace must obey anti-discrimination laws and that the First Amendment poses no barrier,” Willock argued in court papers.

The case acted on today is Elane Photography v. Willock, 13-585.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Patrick Oster at poster@bloomberg.net; Mark McQuillan at mmcquillan@bloomberg.net; Don Frederick at dfrederick1@bloomberg.net Mark McQuillan, Justin Blum

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