US Christian photographers lose last chance appeal over same-sex wedding case

Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, owners of Elane Photography.

The US Supreme Court decided on Monday (April 7) to refuse to hear the appeal from two New Mexico photographers sued for refusing to document a same-sex wedding because of their Christian beliefs.

Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin declined to photograph the ‘commitment ceremony’ of Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth in 2006. It was called a ‘commitment ceremony’ because at the time same-sex marriage was not legal in New Mexico.

Ms Willock and Ms Collinsworth then made a complaint to the New Mexico Human Rights Commission which ruled in favour of the lesbian couple and fined the Huguenins $6,637.94 in legal fees.

When the Huguenins took the case to the New Mexico Supreme court in August 2013, the court ruled against them, arguing that having to take part in events one could not morally agree with was “the price of citizenship” and that the US constitution’s freedom of expression clause “does not exempt creative or expressive businesses from anti-discrimination laws”.

“The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different,” the court decided.

“This case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others.”

The New Mexico Supreme Court also dismissed the notion that forcing the Huguenins to photograph a same-sex wedding would restrict their religious freedom.

“The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead,” it continued. 

“The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more.”

With the US Supreme Court refusing to hear their case, the Huguenins have no more chance to appeal and would have had to pay the legal fees had Ms Willock not chosen to waive the requirement.

The lawyers representing the Huguenins, Alliance Defending Freedom, say that the central issue in this case is still being fought in several other cases in the US.

Speaking to, senior ADF counsel David Cortman said: “Americans oppose unjust laws that strong-arm citizens to express ideas against their will.

“Elaine and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are not willing to promote any and all messages.

“A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.”

Similar cases include a florist in Washington State who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, a baker in Colorado who would not bake a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony, and a T-Shirt company in Kentucky who refused to print shirts for a gay pride march.

A Rasmussen poll in July 2013 found that 85 per cent of Americans agreed that a photographer should have the right to refuse to take pictures of a same-sex wedding if it contradicts their religious views.

Speaking about the case on ABC news, the American Civil Liberties Union said: “Every business has to play by the same rules to protect customers from discrimination in the marketplace.”

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention was quoted by NPR arguing that the case had a deeper significance: “At issue is the fundamental question of whether the state can pretend to be a god over the conscience.”


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  2. Clayton Caroline

    Putting a coat of religion on won’t change the facts. Bigotry is bigotry God or not.

    • “Bigotry” – that’s rich! A bigot is defines as “a person who is intolerant of another’s beliefs, politics, race”. Were the Huguenin’s intolerant? Not at all. They chose not to do the business. That is not bigotry. That is freedom of choice and freedom of expression. Just as the ‘same-sex couple’ – I suppose it cannot be called what it is anymore – have the right to make their choice

    • Clayton, if I was asked to photograph pornography and I declined because I do not agree with pornography and am offended by nudity would you say the same thing. Or do you only say this when God is involved.If I said that I loved you but did not like your naked theme and can therefore not come to your party, but I would gladly meet you for coffee, would that make me a bigot. Clayton, the fact that you do not value God as I do and therefore choose to ridicule my God and my beliefs, does that not make you a bigot? I also cannot understand why you would continuously return to this news letter (which is not a debating forum, but is in fact a news forum for keeping Christians informed on Christian matters) in order to express your anti Christian sentiments. You have the freedom to do this of course but I cannot understand your motives. Is it to teach me the “error of my ways” because you truly believe I am wrong and care for me? I desperately would like to know why you ridicule me and mine Clayton. I dont see any love, compassion or humility in your writing but perhaps I am wrong. What is your understanding of bigotry….can it only be applied to Christians or is an atheist also able to be defined as a bigot. Last question….and please bear with me….are there more important issues out there that would do well to receive your attention such as women abuse, corruption, crime motivated by greed, bullying of the weak by the strong, cheating on spouses and the break up of families, orphans, starving widows, etc etc etc. Most of these activities performed by non Christians and consequences because of these activities of course.
      Blessing boet

  3. True Bible believers in SA must take note of this case. This is were the western world is going and SA will follow thanks to the SAHRC. Whether to fight the ‘system’ is every individuals decision but please don’t wish it away cause it is not going away. This is all part of the ‘great falling away’ which the Bible predicted. The right thing to do is to keep praying and prepare yourself for a clampdown on religious freedom in SA. The good news is that Jesus said this would happen and that it will be an excellent opportunity to be a witness for Him.

  4. All businesses have a right to choose when and where to ply their trade – no law can force you to accept a particular transaction. A hair stylist once told me he refused to do mullets, no matter who asked, as it was bad for his reputation! Everywhere there are companies that have the right to do business or turn business away, to decide not to go into certain ventures if there is risk to their reputation, or to refuse deals that do not fit in with their overall strategy. The state has no place interfering in the free market. Likewise, the rights of these two photographers should also be respected.