A New Mexico court has upheld a ruling that it is illegal for Christian photographers to refuse their services to same-sex couples because of their faith, arguing that it would be discriminating against a person's sexual orientation.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which defended the Christian couple and their company, Elane Photography LLC, has vowed to take the case to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
"Americans in the marketplace should not be subjected to legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs," said Attorney and ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence in a June 4 press release.
"Should the government force a videographer who is an animal rights activist to create a video promoting hunting and taxidermy? Of course not, and neither should the government force this photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience. Because the Constitution prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to promote a message they disagree with, we will certainly appeal this decision to the New Mexico Supreme Court," he added.
The Willock v. Elane Photography court case stems back to 2006, when Christian photographers Elaine Huguenin and her husband Jon Huguenin of Albuquerque refused to photograph the "commitment ceremony" of Vanessa Willock and her partner, Misti Collinsworth due to their Christian convictions.
According to court documents, Elaine Huguenin said she and her husband refused to photograph the ceremony because their beliefs were in conflict with the purpose of the ceremony.
"The message a same-sex commitment ceremony communicates is not one I believe," Hugeunin has said. "If it becomes something where Christians are made to do these things by law in one state, or two, it's going to sweep across the whole United States…and religious freedom could become extinct."
Neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions between couples of the same sex are legal in New Mexico.
Willock ultimately chose a different photographer for her ceremony, but filed a discrimination complaint against the company with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.
In 2008, the commission found the Huguenins guilty of sexual discrimination as found in the state's Human Rights Act, which states places of public accommodation may not partake in discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The couple was ordered to pay $6,637 to Willock's attorney for services.
Lorence of the ADF then appealed the verdict to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, and on May 31 the appeals court upheld the original decision of the commission.
The ADF, a Christian legal alliance group, believes the court's verdict in this case sends a clear message that: "you will be punished if you don't fully endorse or promote the homosexual agenda, whether you agree with it or not."
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council also weighed in on the court's decision, writing in a recent newsletter that he sees this case involving a same-sex couple as part of a bigger trend against Christians.
"Unfortunately, this is just a snapshot of what's happening around the country in business, sports, Hollywood, and schools," he writes. "Homosexual activists are absolutely determined to punish people who refuse to embrace and celebrate their lifestyle choices."