Supreme Court Won’t Hear an Appeal from Wedding Photog in Same-Sex Dispute


A widely-reported legal case involving a same-sex couple and the photography studio that refused to shoot their wedding reached its conclusion earlier today when the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, putting an end to nearly eight years of litigation.

The dispute began in 2006 when photographers Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin told same-sex couple Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth that they only covered ‘traditional weddings.’

Willock and Collinsworth were able to find someone else easily, but the incident prompted Willock to file a complaint against Elane Photography with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, claiming that the studio’s policy violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.


Since then the case has made its way up the ladder of courts within New Mexico, each ruling going in favor of Willock and Collinsworth until, finally, Elane Photography was forced to file an appeal with the Supreme Court itself.

The Huguenins’ argument maintained that choosing not to photograph same-sex couples was an expression of their freedom of speech; however, the state’s courts have decided it was no different than if they had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different race.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to rule in this case leaves standing the decision by the state’s highest court, putting a legal period at the end of this particular story without giving law makers from several states the ‘legal guidance’ they were hoping this precedence setting-case would give them had it been taken on by the SCOTUS.

(via USA Today)

Image credits: Photographs by Bruce Ellefson, Alliance Defending Freedom.

  • Spongebob Nopants

    First of all I have a libertarian stance on gay marriage. If two people want to marry then it’s nobody elses business.
    But it’s equally nobody’s business if someone isn’t comfortable with it. These photographers should not be forced to participate in something they don’t want to.
    I’ve been turned down by potential african american clients to edit a hip hop video because I’m not black. I’ve been turned down to edit the reel of a female adult entertainer because she wasn’t comfortable interacting with a man for that process. I think those decisions were fair.
    But if they wanted me to work on those things and I didn’t desire to, I could be prosecuted in that state.
    So this gives one person, the potential client, more rights than another person, the service provider.
    By this ruling christian photographers in that state have to photograph a satanist wedding. And no I’m not comparing homosexuality itself to satanism.
    It invites chaos and uneccessary conflict. Couldn’t the photographers now take the couple to a human rights commision because they want to force them to participate in something they believe their faith dissaproves?
    And another interesting point. After the photographers said they only shot traditional weddings, do you honestly think the gay couple would have WANTED to hire them? Of course not.
    For one thing it indicated that these photographers thought they might not be able to perform as well and may not be able to give their best service in that situation and thus damage their business by providing sub par service.
    Shooting a wedding is a very intense job and if one is very uncomfortable it could impair the subtle judgments a wedding photographer has to make. Doctors aren’t supposed to work on their relatives because they won’t have the necessary objectivity and remove.
    The client might have been able to convince the photographers to shoot their wedding if they tried. Did they try? Or did they just decide they didn’t like something about these specific photographers and move on, like a million previous couples have when shopping for a wedding photographer.

  • JustFedUp86

    Read the actual e-mails, all they said was they didn’t do same sex weddings, that was it. I’d like to see some of these liberals posting here trying to play both sides of the fence proclaim the same things about non-discrimination if it’s a wedding or ceremony they disagree with; whether Neo-Pagan, Voodo, or hardcore Southern snake handlers.

  • brian_x

    Rights that extend to homosexuals also apply to you. Even if you’re not inclined to marry someone of the same sex, you’re still allowed to. No “special” rights there.

  • Wodan74

    There is no such thing as “normal”. It’s an opinion shared by group of people. The bible is also an opinion, written by (more or less) wise men, living in a certain time in history and based on their experiences. Today we know for a fact, that homosexuality is some alternation in the body you’re born with. It occurs in nature with animals too. Who are you to claim that they are wrong. It’s like saying that deaf people should ‘change’ and start hearing again. Or black people should become white. Do you really believe that these people choose to be gay and voluntarily face the difficulties they can expect with being outcasts? You claim to be just, because you live by the word of your god, but you violate the most essential part of respect and accepting differences.

  • brian_x

    There’s a simpler reason it’s different. A grownup can consent to sex, a child can’t. Even if you grant that pedophilia is a sexual orientation and not a disease, it still means that the pedophile can’t actually have what turns them on without essentially (and/or literally) committing rape.

  • Ben Chompers

    You are all over the place. First, sexual orientation is a protected class in their state. It’s not “something someone disagrees with”.

    Second, plenty of people you are labeling as “liberals” believe that your strawman examples are also deserving of those protections. I would also object to a pagan, voodoo or snake charming fundamentalist from being denied based off their religion (another protected class, though far more of a choice than sexual orientation).

  • Ben Chompers

    Wrong, you are looking at it like a beep-boop robot. The end result (with a different excuse from the photographer) is that a lesbian couple was not denied service because the photographer doesn’t serve “their kind”. It’s not offensive to be told you’re busy, out of town, etc. It takes a special kind of bigotry to tell someone to their face they are undeserving of your services because of who they are. And that absolutely takes an affect on people’s lives to be discriminated against.

  • Ben Chompers

    The photographer is not operating in the United Republic of Fundamentalist artisans. They are operating in Arizona, which has clearly worded anti-discrimination laws, which one has to agree to operate under to get a business license and stay out of court.

  • Shoot Greenville

    You are missing the point. If Christian Photogs are ok with photographing an unmarried couple that are having sex before they are married…then THAT IS THEIR CHOICE! Private business can choose who they want to serve and who they choose not to serve. Government nannies shouldn’t be dictating which clients Christian Photogs have to serve.

  • arachnophilia

    > (God’s standard – the original standard)

    so, there’s a couple of points to consider when talking about how the bible treats marriage, homosexuality, and women in general.

    first, in the etiology for marriage found in the second chapter of genesis, it is not the woman’s differences from the man that make her a suitable mate for the man. it is her similarities. yahweh (the god of the bible) first proposes animals, but mankind rejects yahweh’s solution to man’s loneliness. it takes yahweh literally making another man, from the man he’s already made, to satisfy the first man. the gender… actually isn’t all that relevant, except that if the second man had been more like the first one, instead of a woman, it may have been an even better match. if animals were god’s standard, we’d moved beyond that before we left eden.

    second, is that this is likely because this source from the torah, the book of J, is something of a companion piece for the book of samuel. the two were written somewhat contemporaneously. where david is the literal hero of the book of samuel, he is the unwritten standard to which the heros of J are held. every patriarch in J is, in some regards, a shadow of david. this is notable, because in 1 sam 18, david makes a covenant with another man (jonathan) that sounds an awful lot like marriage. they remove their clothes, and pledge their undying love to one another. and that’s… kinda gay, even if they weren’t married. however, jonathan’s father saul says, later in the chapter when david marries his daughter as well, “בִּשְׁתַּיִם תִּתְחַתֵּן בִּי הַיּוֹם”, literally, “twice you will be my son in law on this day.” english translations generally emend this to say “through one of the two” referring saul’s other daughter who backed out, but the hebrew masoretic text just says “twice”.

    third is that, as you may have gathered from the above chapter, ALL biblical marriage is actually a contract between two men. the husband, and the wife’s father. note that this is the same before the law (eg: laban’s fine print trickery with joseph), and after the law (saul and david), and even codified into the law.

    fourth is that polygamy is completely normal in the bible (see, uh, everyone i mentioned above), whereas divorce is absolutely not. jesus himself had a few things to say about divorce. i’ll let you find those yourself. if this is god’s standard, we’ve since completely changed standards, in part because we now view women as people.

    does the bible have some things to say against homosexuality? of course. but it has a lot of things to say against women, too. and a lot of other topics. i would argue that you are not, in fact, basing your moral standards on the bible, because to do so is impossible; these facts conflict pretty strongly, and conflict with modern humanist notions of morality that you almost certainly hold. instead, you are turning to a large volume of texts, and selecting pieces that you think will lend authority to your already assumed morality, and then hoping those of us who have not read or studied the bible will somehow conflate this fragmentary argument from flawed authority with some absolute universalist objective moral authority… a view of god that doesn’t even exist in some portions of the volume you’ve chosen for support.

  • Rob S

    You are confusing “free speech” with restraint of trade. Had the photographers simply said “I don’t approve of same sex marriage” there is nothing that the courts could have or would have done. But they turned their speech into action. Being licensed to conduct business in a state comes with certain obligations. One of those is to serve the public equally. So you can’t have a bar that is “public” with a liquor license but then says they will only serve Asian American males between 21 and 28.

    Businesses are free to say all the stupid things they want – the can even insult paying customers. But unless you are selling really good soup, doing so is normally not good for business.

  • Jason Muspratt

    You have to remember we are talking about a business, not a person. The person is free to believe what they want, and live out those beliefs, but the business they run is not.

  • Rob S

    So I am assuming you are abiding by all the other things in the Old Testament? If you want to use the bible as a standard I am all for it as long as you use ALL of it. Now put down that shrimp and those mixed fiber clothes and start stoning some adulterers as well as anyone with a tattoo.

    And please don’t call yourself a CHRISTIAN because a Christian is a follower of Christ and Jesus was VERY clear about the NEW Testament and loving everyone.

  • arachnophilia

    i turn down weddings all the time, mostly because i just don’t want to do weddings. but even if i did shoot weddings on a regular basis, couldn’t i refuse a couple for basically any reason i want?

  • Steven Wade

    Trying to find laws from Torah that have been fulfilled to put down those of a certain religion are we? You also seem to be missing a very important point from the New Testament in that accusation.

    Apparently believing that homosexuality is wrong because you actually believe your religion is bigotry, but calling for tolerance and being very intolerant of someone’s religious beliefs is not bigotry.

    The definition of bigotry: intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.

    Because those who aren’t Christian never practice that definition of bigotry.

  • Steven Wade

    Proverbs 23:20 = not a law. But I do agree with your last line.

  • RegularGuy55

    No, not anger. Anger is useless at this point. It’s more like sadness as I watch society slide into its amoral abyss.

  • RegularGuy55

    Okay, then how do Catholic hospitals refuse to perform abortions?

    Just askin’.

  • RegularGuy55

    You really are clueless, aren’t you?

    These people have a moral objection, and you tell them ‘money is money’ like that is the only moral compass anyone needs.

    Yeah, money justifies anything. Anything.

  • Steven Wade

    Really an unnecessary quip against religion in there.

  • RegularGuy55

    “Racists”. There you go, dropping the ‘R’ word, and not having a clue about what it REALLY means, or whether it applies here. Since you apparently have never made friends with a dictionary, I’ll help.

    ‘Racism’ is:

    1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
    2: racial prejudice or discrimination

    Nobody is saying they are superior to anyone else. They aren’t trying to stop or to interfere with a same-sex marriage. All they’ve said is, our faith opposes same-sex marriage, so if that’s what you want pictures of, leave us out.

  • Steven Wade

    He quoted the Constitution and you ask him about Bible verse?

  • RegularGuy55

    Please, please take just two minutes to LEARN what the REAL definition of ‘racism’ is. Liberals toss the word around freely trying to shame people into acquiescing.

    “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”. (from ‘Through the Looking Glass’)

    And comparing this to racial discrimination of decades past does a tremendous disservice to fight for civil rights.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    I think there are exemptions for religious organizations, but not for wedding photogs or diner owners or business people who’se main concern is not religious activity.

  • Cao

    Spirituality can be very insightful and very beneficial for both mind and
    body, but as long as somewhere, on the planet, a human being is killing
    another human being based on religious beliefs, I stand by what I said.

  • Steven Wade

    As a Jesus follower, I very much agree to both points. Also as a Jesus follower, you’d be surprised at how looked down upon I am for what I choose to believe. Just look at the comments. Because I whole-heartedly believe what is in the Bible, I am called a bigot when a bigot really only means intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself and so it’s hard to take that from someone who is intolerant toward my beliefs.

    As I do follow who I follow, I do not condone practicing homosexuality, but I am also am told to follow the law under which I live and will do so. One’s sexual orientation is not what defines them in my eyes, and I will treat them no differently.

    It boggles my mind how much hostility ensues from this, especially from those who are said “Christians”. So busy telling non-Christians what is wrong, but won’t tell fellow Christians what they are doing wrong (most letters Paul wrote in the New Testament are written to Christians about Christians, somehow people missed that). Sorry you get all this micro-management.

  • Steven Wade

    Spirituality of what Spirit? If you are spiritual, you are aligning with some spirit that isn’t just your own.

    Yes I agree, but also generalizing it so is a poke at all religions, even non-violent ones who are not killing others based on religious beliefs.

  • Cao

    I did use the term ‘misguided’ specifically to refer to those specific religions in question, and not to generalize, but since the ‘religions in question’ vary substantially based on personal beliefs I can’t and should not have the right to mention one specific religion. Leaving it ambiguous allows any reader to fill the ‘whatever misguided religious beliefs’ area with whatever religion that they might think is misguided.
    If it offended you in any way I apologize but I would ask you to look into it as to why you’d consider that your own beliefs are misguided?

  • Matt King

    This is total bull. It aggravates me everyone feels the need to federally attack somebody with a different set of philosophy, even if that philosophy doesn’t actually do you any harm.

  • bry

    Actually that was going to be in my previous reply. Net result the same but two lesbians not outraged since 2006.
    The day humans stop being offensive to each other will never come.

  • RegularGuy55

    A Catholic hospital’s ‘main concern’ isn’t religion, it’s treating the sick. I guess I don’t understand where government draws the line for the ‘practice of religion.’

    BTW, Catholic doctors do not have to perform abortions, either. What is different about a doctor’s right of conscientious refusal compared to say, a wedding photographer?

  • Dis_log

    LOL: Just imagine, your fake compliments “yah great, you guys going great”.

  • bry

    Are you familiar with Little Britain? You are beginning to sound like
    the only gay in the village. Never be happy! Google it if you are
    unfamiliar. the actor/ comedian is a gay man.

  • Burnin Biomass

    You can take pictures of something you have a moral objection to. War photographers do it all the time. Plenty of pro life pharmacists have a moral objection to birth control, but still hand out birth control drugs all day.

    It’s going to be law, so you have to find a way to deal with your moral objections. God will understand.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    If it’s a Catholic hospital I assume that means it;s closely affiliated with the church and heavily influenced byt the church.
    The photographer said they would not service the lesbians because they are agay but will take pics at nongay weddings. The doctor who doesnt perform abortions means no abortions for anyone be they black, gay, Catholic or Wicca. So the Dr is not discriminating against groups of people, the Dr just don’t do that for anyone.

  • Brian MacLochlainn

    Because people who are gay have never been discriminated against due to their sexuality, never beaten, never killed, never refused work, never refused service, never treated as second class citizens? As someone who has been subjected to discrimination, who’s relatives took part in the civil rights marches, I feel okay with this comparison and don’t feel it does a disservice in any way.

    I think you misunderstood the opening line; “Homophobia is our generations racism” this is like saying “Jeff Buckley’s Grace is my generations Stairway to heaven”.

    It does not mean that Grace is stairway to heaven it means that grace is to my generation what stairway to heaven is to a 55 year old. In this case I am not saying Homophobia is racism, but it is to this generation what racism was to previous generations.

    So in retort, Please, please just take two minutes to try work out what someone is saying before replying with a rather dumb follow up.

  • Chris Rogers

    doge got his chezburjer

  • Shoot Greenville

    Does anyone know if Elane Photography is still in business? I tried to search for their website and couldn’t find it.

  • geeves

    Just stop. This is a bad argument. The KKK and Neo Nazi party are not recognized as religions and therefore do not fall under a protected class, unlike LGBT which is recognized as a protected class.

  • Ian

    Fair enough. How about a gay photographer forced to cover a Southern Baptist conference on the sins of homosexuality?

  • Display_Name

    There was a time not so long ago that christians in the US held that it was their right not to serve people of color. They said the same thing you are saying right now. When you operate in the public sphere we have certain ground rules that the we the people decide that the government must enforce. You must not discriminate is one of them. The bible said that women must cover their heads and we photograph women with their heads uncovered. We ignore that. We pick and choose. And so often we pick bigotry.

  • Marc Stephens

    Public accommodation?? WTF?? Am I going to be forced to shoot weddings now? Gay, straight, or whatever, I don’t care, I hate weddings.

  • James

    So basically your argument is that people discriminate against you, and it doesn’t bother you, so discrimination Isn’t an issue.

  • James

    Well said.

  • James

    Probably typed a link.

  • Father Arsepoke

    You are forgiven, my son, now bend over and receive your absolution.

  • RegularGuy56

    And it’s such a fun ride!

  • some dude

    You can’t just declare anything you want to be an exercise of your religion… Well, I guess you CAN but you shouldn’t get a special exemption from the law for it.

  • some dude

    How does one join such noble quest?

  • Display_Name

    Weak it is not. You are attempting to use logic against the express commands in the Bible. Fornicators and Adulterers were to be stoned to death. So you would literally have to say goodbye to 90% of your clients. You just exposed your ignorance and/or intellectual dishonesty. So many Christians have not clue what in the Bible. They just use it to advance their own bigotry. The thing is Mega Church Priests and Politicians teamed up to kill Jesus. Ask yourself why.