Have you ever been to a place of business with a sign that says “We may refuse business for any reason”? In my city, the Humane Society has a sign like that. It is perfectly legal for them to refuse adoption of an animal to anyone for any reason. What about all of the signs that read: no shirt, no shoes, no service?
Apparently, in New Mexico some business owners can’t refuse service to some customers anymore.
Thursday, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against Elane Photography. For religious reasons, Jonathan and Elane Huguenin refused to be the photographers for the lesbian commitment ceremony of Vanessa Willock. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that by refusing service, Elane Photography violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA).
NMHRA “prohibits a public accommodation from refusing to offer its services to a person based on that person’s sexual orientation.” New Mexico Supreme Court Judges ruled in favor of a law that clearly violates the supreme law of the land– The United States Constitution. The first amendment to the Constitution written by James Madison clearly states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
NMHRA is a law that “prohibits the free exercise” of religious beliefs. Religious freedom is not intended to simply allow individual’s the right to attend religious ceremonies. Religious freedom allows individuals the freedom to exercise those beliefs by acting, thinking, and speaking according to their conscience.
Justice Richard C. Bosson wrote that the case “provokes reflection on what this nation is all about, its promise of fairness, liberty, equality of opportunity, and justice.” He stated, the case “teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less.”
The New Mexico Supreme Court judges ignored the first amendment by applying a common interpretation of the “equal protection clause” of the 14th amendment. The equal protection clause states:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.
A violation of the equal protection clause would occur if a state prohibited employment of an individual simply because of the person’s race. However, the equal protection clause was not intended to provide “equality”. It is simply there to provide equal application of the law.
NMHRA does not provide equal application of the law. It would be perfectly legal for a homosexual photographer to refuse service to a Christian couple because the Christian couple has a religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.
In recent years, it has been a trend to take this clause and apply Strict Scrutiny: the most stringent standard of judicial review used by United States courts to weigh the government’s interest against a constitutional right or principle. This gave the New Mexico Supreme Court the lead they took to rule against the Constitution, clearly making different groups unequal before the law.
Judge Bosson continued by stating that the owners of Elane Photography, Jonathan and Elane Huguenin, “are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish”. However they may not say what they wish to say or act upon their consciences because apparently in the “world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different.” Of course, those citizens who are protected under non-discrimination laws like NMHRA are not required to “channel their conduct…so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different.”
Judge Bosson concludes that forcing Christians to act against their conscience is just “the price of citizenship.”
Elane Photography is ordered to pay Willock, the original $6,637.94 in attorney’s fees and costs order by the New Mexico Human Rights Council.
For more on this topic, go here: “A Bad Picture in New Mexico: State Supreme Court Tramples Christian Beliefs”