By John Jalsevac
New Mexico, January 30, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The case of a Christian photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex "commitment ceremony", was heard before the New Mexico Human Rights Division on Monday.
A same-sex couple asked Elaine Huguenin, co-owner with her husband of Elane Photography, to photograph a "commitment ceremony" that the two women wanted to hold. Huguenin declined because her Christian beliefs are in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony.
The same-sex couple filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Division, which is now trying Elane Photography under state antidiscrimination laws for sexual orientation discrimination.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a legal alliance that is dedicated to defending and protecting religious freedom, sanctity of life, marriage, and family, is currently defending Elane Photography.
"On Monday we defended Elane Photography in court, saying basically that no person should be required to help others advance a message that they disagree with," ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice-President of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, Jordan Lorence, told LifeSiteNews in an interview today. "That’s a basic First Amendment principle. The government is punishing Elaine photography for refusing to take photos which obviously advance the messages sent by the same-sex ceremony - that marriage can be defined as two women or two men."
In their complaint the homosexual couple has sought for an injunction against Elane Photography that will forbid them from ever again refusing to photograph a same-sex ceremony. They have also requested attorney’s fees.
"Depending on how far up the ladder this goes of appeal that could be a lot of money," said Lorence. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Lorence said that the ADF is framing its case in a similar fashion to the 1995 Supreme Court "Hurley" Case. "In the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade case the US Supreme Court said that the State of Massachusetts could not punish a privately run parade because it refused to allow a homosexual advocacy group to carry banners and signs in the parade. They said that would be compelled speech, ordering the parade organizers to help promote a message they do not want to promote. To apply the discrimination law that way violates freedom of speech. We are making a similar kind of argument in this case."
Lorence said that this current case is demonstrative of a "tremendous threat" facing those with traditional views on marriage and family.
"I think that this is a tremendous threat to First Amendment rights. Those who are advocating for same-sex marriage and for rights based upon sexual orientation keep arguing, ‘We are not going to apply these against churches. We are going to protect people’s right of conscience. We are all about diversity and pluralism.’"
But, in practice, says Lorence, "Business owners with traditional views or church owners with traditional definitions of marriage are now vulnerable for lawsuits under these nondiscrimination laws. There are 20 states that have these laws where they ban sexual orientation discrimination. Most of the major cities in the United States also have these kinds of ordinances. So these are a big threat, as the federal government debates whether to make this a blanket nationwide law.
"We see that these [non-discrimination laws] are not rectifying some unjust discrimination, but being used to punish those who speak out in favor of traditional marriage and sexual restraint," he concluded.
Lorence said that the ADF is "cautiously optimistic that the commission will do the right thing." If the New Mexico Commission, however, decides against Elane Photography, Lorence said that the ADF would appeal the decision all the way up to the US Supreme Court if necessary.
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