According to a report by Reuters on April 7, the U.S. Supreme Court have decided not to hear a case involving a New Mexico photography company’s refusal to shoot the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple based on their religious beliefs. The case would’ve asked the court to decide whether the company had a right to refuse service based on free speech rights.
The denial upholds a decision by the state’s highest court that went against the studio.
In August 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court decided in favor of Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth, the same-sex couple that filed a successful complaint with the New Mexico Human Commission following declined service from Elane Photography back in 2006. The Owners of Elane Photography, Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin are opposed to gay marriage and felt they had a right to turn away the couple because they didn’t want their product associated with something they don’t believe in.
The Huguenins, who are also Christians, argued that taking photographs can be seen as a form of speech, therefore the First Amendment should protect them from having to “express messages that conflict with their religious beliefs.”
If the case had gone to the Supreme Court, an important constitutional question would’ve come into focus. That question being whether merchants whose products are for the most part expressive must serve customers even when there is a conflict with their beliefs.
In the intitial petition to the Supreme Court, the Huguenins based their appeal on their freedom of speech, stating that they had a right to decide what messages their photography conveyed based on their believes.
“Of particular relevance here is the Huguenins’ sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” the petition said. “They believe that if they were to communicate a contrary message about marriage – by, for example, telling the story of a polygamous wedding ceremony – they would be disobeying God.”
As New Mexico is now one of 17 states where gay marriage is legal, the Huguenins’ petition would’ve had even more value because of the increase in same-sex marriages in the state, meaning more vendors are being asked to perform services.