How do you weigh equal treatment of gay couples against free expression?

Photographer Elaine Huguenin via Alliance Defending Freedom.

“A New Mexico law forbids businesses open to the public to discriminate against gay people. Elaine Huguenin, a photographer, says she has no problem with that — so long as it does not force her to say something she does not believe,” writes in the New York Times.

“In asking the Supreme Court to hear her challenge to the law, Ms. Huguenin said that she would ‘gladly serve gays and lesbians — by, for example, providing them with portrait photography,’ but that she did not want to tell the stories of same-sex weddings. To make her celebrate something her religion tells her is wrong, she said, would hijack her right to free speech.

“So she turned down a request from a lesbian couple, Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth, to document their commitment ceremony. The women, who hired another photographer, filed a discrimination complaint against Ms. Huguenin’s studio, Elane Photography. So far, the studio has lost in the courts.”

The Times offers a few highlights of those arguing on the side of free speech:

“Photographers, writers, singers, actors, painters and others who create First Amendment-protected speech must have the right to decide which commissions to take and which to reject,” the libertarian Cato Institute and two law professors — Eugene Volokh of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Dale Carpenter of the University of Minnesota — told the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Jordan W. Lorence, a lawyer at the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Elane Photography, said Ms. Huguenin should be able to decline assignments at odds with her beliefs in a way that, say, motels and hardware stores may not. “There are some professions that are inherently expressive — an ad agency, website designer or even a tattoo artist,” he said.

“A tattoo artist should not be forced to put a swastika on an Aryan Nation guy,” Mr. Lorence said. “The government could not force someone to put a bumper sticker on their car that says, ‘I support same-sex marriage’ or ‘I support interracial marriage.’ ”

Today’s Question: How do you weigh equal treatment of gay couples against free expression?

  • AndyBriebart

    OK for a black owned business from serving someone wearing a white sheet?

  • Gary F

    Do Muslim clerks have to touch pork products at the grocery store?

    • JQP

      don’t know, but Muslim taxi cab drivers at the MSP Airport must take passengers who may be drunk or have bottles of liquor in their luggage. Court says do it, or the airport can pull your card.

    • Care

      Reminds me of England’s India debacle…”The rebellion is also known as India’s First War of Independence, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, theRevolt of 1857, the Uprising of 1857, the Sepoy Rebellionand the Sepoy Mutiny. The Mutiny was a result of various grievances. However the flashpoint was reached when the soldiers were asked to bite off the paper cartridges for their rifles which they believed were greased with animal fat, namely beef and pork. This was, and is, against the religious beliefs of Hindus and Muslims, respectively.”

  • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

    If you are turning down a wedding because you do not want to tell the story of a same sex wedding because it goes against your religious beliefs. Then you also are going to turn down a Muslim wedding, a Buddhist wedding, a Wiccan or Jewish wedding on and on…… You will have to ask if the person in the wedding had sex before marriage, If one of them had an Abortion in their lives, have them write and sign a contract saying that they will not divorce or have an affair. Will you them if they commit adultery? or ask for your money back if they have a pregnancy they stop? or use birth control?

    Perhaps we should put out signs over shops saying we do not serve Gays here? or have seperate bathrooms or water fountains while we are it make them sit in the back of the bus.

    • JQP

      the path to self discovery often starts with a stumble.

      • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

        And stumble we have, and we will get up and walk again.

    • Tyler

      Sure, she can absolutely decline a Wiccan wedding. The question is about the moral content of the event itself, not the customers personally.

      • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

        The business of determining what is moral is not for the photographer to do. It is discrimination if they refuse to do the job because they are different than they are.

        • Tyler

          What I mean by moral content isn’t morality. I mean faith content.

          She can withhold her artistic expression from telling the story of a Wiccan wedding if she finds some content of the wedding objectionable to her conscience. That’s not discrimination. Discrimination would be turning down Wiccans for jobs unrelated to public proclamation of the content of their faith.

          Do you really want to use the power of the state to coerce artists and writers into supporting religious positions they find objectionable? Let’s think about that before we get too excited about sticking it to a “bigot” you don’t know.

          • Tyler

            (I guess you very well *may* want to use the state for those means. But I find that idea abhorrent and terrifying, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.)

          • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

            If we didn’t use the state, we would have slavery still. Slavery would still pass on a popular vote in some portions of the USA.

          • Tyler

            Yeah, we all get that you are very aggrieved and offended by the photographer and everyone like her, and have no respect for her case, but you keep leaving inflammatory rebuttals without actually answering what anyone asks you. It is very irritating and a waste of time to try to have a conversation with someone that does that.

            Again, a softball: would you or would you not, in general, want to use the power of the state to coerce artists and writers (of any faith or none) into expressing religious positions they find objectionable? And do you or do you not view that coercion as constitutional? Because you are starting to sound like you would.

            I would not. Countless souls have died, and countless more would, to secure and defend the rights of expression and exercise. Sign me up today.

          • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

            Tell me exactly where the “expression of art” stops? The cake that is made for the same sex marriage? perhaps the printer of the cards? The maker of the rings? The dress shop? The shoe shop? The place they buy their underwear? The people that create the streets they walk on or homes they live in?

            They picked a JOB ITS A JOB A SERVICE. If they want to express their “art” let them put up the pictures they take that they make the people sign as property of the photographer, then put them up on a big giant bill board with a circle and a line across their faces!

            Sorry, art isn’t being “squelched” here.

          • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

            The objectionable portion of all of this is the fact that you mix the idea of moral and faith as one.

  • Sharon Dixon

    Whatever happened to the freedoms that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights gave us. As long as it serves the other groups, it is fine, but once a person, of any race, but mainly white, says “I won’t because…” it become discrimination or something on that thread. Why should white Americans have to bend to all the whims of the world, but not be able to stand up for what they believe? Once they do that, it is homophobia, racism, etc.

    • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

      If you were not allowed to walk into a store because you were white and straight what would you do?

      • Sharon Dixon

        Go to another store and if I get turned down from every store, then I guess they really don’t want my business at all.

        • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

          that is an answer from someone that hasn’t been discriminated because they were different than someone else.

          • Sharon Dixon

            Sorry Evenlyn, but you lose on this one. I have been discriminated against because I have been a white female. It doesn’t matter if you are gay, African-American or whatever, discrimination happens. I have worked in a field where I was called everything, and had to take it as part of the job. I have been spit on by people and had to take it. I have learned, if someone doesn’t want me in their place of business, I don’t go. It is their choice. Plain and simple.

          • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

            An extremely white response if I have ever one. Once your whole being is being threatened just because you are different than someone else, once you have the very law saying you are a second class citizen, or no citizenship what so ever, once you know what its like to have a history of less opportunity because of who you are, once you have the majority saying what you can do how you can do it and make it law then come back to me. You are a white woman, less than a white man, but you are privileged. Once we understand who has the privileges and who doesn’t and we have true equality amongst all peoples opportunities in life, we will be a true human race that is good. Untill then we will fight and not back down to those who are bigoted, full of power and greed. I am a straight, white woman who has had one husband, and two children and I know how privileged my hard working road to the top of mediocre middle class, struggle for the bills and health care and food for the table I am.

  • JQP

    I’m not a member , but a supporter of the GLBT community. That being said …. both sides remind of a quote from comedian Ron White… “I had the right to be silent, but not the ability”.

    What teapot tempest this is. Two pissy parties turning rubbish into 15 minutes of fame.

    Photographers can turn you down… it doesn’t matter why.

    You can dislike GLBT people and cultures, just be civil in public and business.

    • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

      One can not turn down someone of a different race. One can not turn down anyone that is different they are and are not accepted because of it. Should we have different water fountains for gays?

      • JQP

        Yup , I been drinking that kool-aid generally for 50 years and pretty much like it, but I also think we are broaching the abuse of individual rights.

        Under what circumstances could Ms Huguenin make the business statement “Nope… I don’t want to do the job for you”.

        Can a CPA, Hairdresser, just tell someone … “Yeah, I don’t want to work with, on, for you ”

        You’d like to believe any business would want more customers, but , doen’t having your own business also include the ability to say … yeah I’m not gonna do that.

      • Tyler

        Evelyn, did you even read the MPR question? It’s not about service generally, it’s about freedom of expression. You keep posting false equivalencies about segregation. The photographer has served and will serve gays generally, but is unable to serve a specific event with content that her conscience cannot endorse, because her occupation involves her constitutionally protected freedom of expression.

        • PaulJ

          Does that then leave us to determine which types of work are “more art than science” (and even CPAs sometimes say that).

  • AndyBriebart

    New Mexico have a shortage of photographers? I would think there would be dozens of photo shops just waiting for the business. Don’t want to do gay weddings? Then don’t. Your loss and someone else’s game. That’s how the marketplace works. Why does it always have to be a lawsuit?

    • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

      why were there lawsuits to allow all races to be served in a restaurant or not to be forced to sit in the back of the bus?

  • Bill

    I feel bad for the photographer, having to hire an attorney and go through the stress of the legal system. Why didn’t the gay couple just go find another photographer. Can’t we all have our right to differentiate without being labeled? Nothing bad happened to those people; she didn’t throw her camera at them. Leave her alone.

    • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

      Discrimination is what happened. Its a hate crime.

      • Bill

        No, it’s an I don’t care, that’s not a crime. I don’t care if they choose to be gay. Just don’t tell me, and if you do, then I can choose not to be involved with you. I don’t hate gays. I choose not to get involved with flagrant gays. I know and have worked with many gay people, no problems. They don’t advertise their gay and I don’t tell them I’m not.

        • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

          obviously you have never been discriminated against. This is not about if you want to deal with someone or somthing, this is about law. You would not be allowed to do this if they were black and you didn’t want to serve them. There is no difference.

        • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

          ps, they weren’t advertising they are gay, they JUST are, exactly like you are not. You walk into a store with your fiancee on your arm with a ring wanting a photographer they did the same thing.

      • Tyler

        Whoa, let’s dial back the hate crime talk. You don’t get to play mind-reader here and try people for thoughtcrime.

        The question was, if her sincerely held religious convictions bind her conscience against artistically endorsing something she thinks is wrong, must she photograph that particular event.

        • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

          if you are directly opposing to service someone because you don’t like their differences from you than you are commiting a hate crime.

  • Sue de Nim

    I can’t imagine why that lesbian couple would want to do business with that photographer. How can a wedding photographer do a good job if she isn’t happy for the couple? What if they win their case, and gay and lesbian couples get to force photographers with anti-gay opinions to shoot their weddings? Wouldn’t such couples rather do business with gay-friendly people? It would be a pyrrhic victory if they win, because it would fuel resentment against the equal marriage movement and ultimately hurt their cause. They would have gotten better results for the movement by urging a boycott of anti-gay wedding photographers.

    • Evelyn_Fringeaholic

      it will then send legal precedence saying that its not ok.

  • Rich in Duluth

    Discrimination against GLBT folks is no different than discrimination based on race, religion, sex, age, or any other way we divide people into categories? If you’re open for business, you’re open to the public, whoever they are.

    As for freedom of speech, on your own time, you are free to express your opinions and beliefs to your heart’s content. There is no absolute freedom of speech. You
    can’t slander, you can’t lie under oath, and you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded room, if there is no fire.

  • MrE85

    No proclamation of faith can completely conceal a bigot.

  • Jim G

    Discrimination against any group is a societal ill that should be exposed and negated by using the freedom of expression. If your business provides services to the public, you should not discriminate against any group because of your belief system. However, if the owners’ belief system alerts customers through advertising, then discriminating customers can determine if that business is one they wish to support… ever.

  • david

    I am wondering what Ms. Huguenin said to this couple to rile them up enough to feel they should file a grievance. I have a feel if she had just politely said no thanks that would have been the end of it.

    • Yanotha Twangai

      Unless they were looking for a grievance to file….

      • david

        That is possible. After years of discrimination that’s a possibility. On the other hand the religious right (or wrong) is sure playing the martyr card every chance they get these days. After hundreds of years of getting what they want, they are not taking this gay marriage thing well.

  • Care

    Reminds me of the Israeli Philharmonic refusing to perform Wagner until recent years. Understandable but undesirable discrimination. It’s one thing to build a fence or serve a diner to someone we’re uncomfortable with, but a little different and more difficult when personal aesthetic becomes involved and necessary to deliver a service. Personal aversions make this difficult, but should not be an excuse for discrimination even in the arts such as photography (some wedding photography does aspire to art).

  • http://twitter.com/snyde043 snyde043

    When I was in high school, the way my civics teacher taught the limits of free expression is that “your fist ends where my face begins.” If Ms. Huguenin doesn’t want to “celebrate something her religion tells her is wrong” then she should stick to portrait photos and leave the weddings to more open-minded photographers.

  • Tyler

    Yes, I think it is of critical importance that freedoms of free speech and free exercise of religion not be infringed during this massive social adjustment in normalizing same-sex family structures.

    Even when same-sex families are de jure in the US, there will remain a large minority that believe that love, sex, children and marriage were created to be enjoyed (and suffered) together, and that same-sex marriage is destructive, not constructive. You can’t just bully that conviction away. The moral views for and against same-sex marriage must be allowed to coexist peacefully.

    This legal case is about 1.5 steps removed from being about whether those of a particular faith (or none) must deny their faith itself in service of their occupation.

  • PaulJ

    If you’re doing business, you have to obey the rules. I don’t know how it is determined if the service provided was strictly equal (as if it ever could be).

  • stpldavis

    Like a lot of bigots, this photographer IS TRYING TO MERGE DISCRIMINATION INTO FREEDOM OF SPEECH. The photographer IS FREE to demonstrate against gay marriage IN HER PERSONAL TIME. When she’s off the clock, she can find the nearest FOX NEWS REPORTER and rail against gay marriage for as long as she wants to.
    But refusing service when you are on the clock to some one based on sexual orientation is DISCRIMINATION. At that point, on the clock, your speech is limited to the work in front of you. Work hours is not the time to interject your feelings about any one.
    Frankly, that’s common sense. The only thing a business should ever concern itself with is the customer’s ability to pay the price of the goods sold. A consumer can be from Mars, Saturn, or Pluto. If they have US Dollars and can afford the goods sold, nothing should prevent the consumer from buying the product. We’re interested only in currency, not convictions in the market place.