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Do Gay Rights Trump Religious Rights?

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By Todd Starnes, CP Op-Ed Contributor
April 8, 2014|11:52 am

Gay rights trump religious rights.

That's the rule of law in New Mexico after the U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to consider whether a wedding photographer was within her rights when she refused to film a gay couple's commitment ceremony.

The high court's decision not to hear the case lets stand a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that the owners of Elane Photography violated the state's anti-discrimination laws.

As one New Mexico justice ominously noted, Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin "are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives."

The state's demand that the Huguenins disobey their religious beliefs and photograph the ceremony is "the price of citizenship," a justice wrote.

I write extensively about the Huguenins in my upcoming book, "God Less America."

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The Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case sends a chilling message to Americans who oppose gay marriage, said Jordan Lorence, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney who represents the Huguenins.

"It is disconcerting because the (state) decision was so harsh that this small company can now be forced by state anti-discrimination laws to create messages that they don't agree with," he told me. "This new authoritarianism – forcing people to bow the knee to a new orthodoxy or they be punished – is very chilling."

In 2006 Elaine Huguenin received an email from Vanessa Willock asking her to photograph a "commitment ceremony" between Willock and her same-sex partner. Huguenin declined because the event would have been at odds with her deep convictions, Lorence said.

She had previously declined to photograph other events, including nude photography sessions.

The lesbian couple found a lower-priced photographer to shoot their ceremony, but they nonetheless filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. The ensuing legal battle became one of the first major cases to explore the collision of gay rights and the First Amendment rights of business owners.

"When people say things like gay rights trump religious rights, what they are saying is the government can force people to believe a certain way – and that is something that in a free society should not be tolerated," Lorence said.

The idea that gay rights take precedence over everyone else's rights was recently manifested in the forced resignation of Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich, who came under fire from the gay rights community after it was revealed he had donated money to California's Prop 8 initiative.

"We are now going to see more situations where people are going to be forced to choose between what they believe about marriage – and their job or their business," Lorence told me.

"What concerns me is there will be an effort to expand these types of hunting down people with wrong opinions. I don't know how far this can go."

I know exactly how far this can go.

I believe militant gay rights groups will start targeting churches that own fellowship halls. I believe they will start targeting pastors who preach against homosexuality. And I believe they will go after individuals who attend those kinds of churches.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) was among those shocked by the Supreme Court's inaction. He said every American should be concerned.

Todd Starnes is the host of Fox News & Commentary – heard daily on 250+ radio stations. He's also the author of Dispatches From Bitter America. To check out all of his work you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter @toddstarnes. In his spare time, Todd is active in his church, plays golf, follows SEC football, and eats barbecue. He lives in New York City.
 

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