By Michael Baggot

ROSWELL, NM, April 14, 2008 ( – In a case challenging freedom of conscience in the workplace, a family-owned New Mexico company was fined $6,600 in attorneys’ fees on Wednesday for refusing to take photographs at a same-sex ceremony.

Vanessa Willock complained to the state Human Rights Commission (HRC) that Elane Photography LLC was discriminating against her and her partner on the basis of “sexual orientation.” On Wednesday, the HRC ruled that Elane Photography LLC violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

“The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling people to promote a message they disagree with and thereby violate their conscience,” objected Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund.

“The commission’s decision shows stunning disregard for our client’s First Amendment rights, and we will appeal this ruling in state court.”

“The constitutional right of Americans to refrain from participating in a ceremony or other event because their sincerely held religious beliefs conflict with its message is at stake. Christians could be forced to advocate for viewpoints with which they disagree or to participate in events that violate their conscience,” the ADF explained.

California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Iowa, Illinois, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin have similar laws against workplace discrimination based upon “sexual orientation.” Efforts are also ongoing to introduce similar measures on the federal level.

In November 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which forbids all individuals and organizations, excluding churches and the military, from discriminating on the basis of “sexual orientation.” The approved bill does not include the protection for “transgendered” individuals found in the April 2007 version of the bill. In order to become law the bill still needs to pass the Senate, and to be signed by President Bush.

“ENDA would unconstitutionally force business owners to abandon their faith at the workplace door and adopt a view of sexual morality which runs directly counter to central tenets of every major world religion and thousands of years of history,” argued Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at Concerned Women of America.

“It’s hard to imagine the Framers agreeing that newfangled ‘gay rights,’ based on changeable sexual behaviors, should trump the First Amendment.”

“ENDA will require Americans to hire people they believe to be committing immoral acts, precisely because they commit those acts. It violates employers’ and employees’ freedom of religion, of speech and association,” stated Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family.

Senator Ted Kennedy recently promised to bring ENDA before the Senate before the year’s end.

In a Thursday interview with The Advocate magazine, Sen. Barack Obama said that he hopes to pass the ENDA and eliminate the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy as president.

See previous coverage:

Conservatives React Against Pro-Gay ENDA Measure

US House Begins Hearing on Homosexual Non-Discrimination Act

Bush Pledges Veto on Law Banning Job Discrimination based on “Sexual Orientation”

Read the ADF’s statement on the ruling: