Appeal to be filed in case of photographer fined for sexual orientation discrimination

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) will appeal a New Mexico judge's decision to uphold a ruling by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission against an Albuquerque photography company. The commission ruled that the company, run by a young Christian husband and wife, was guilty of sexual orientation discrimination under state anti-discrimination laws for declining to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.

District Judge Alan M. Malott's ruling said the Christian owners were compelled to photograph the ceremony for Vanessa Willock and Misty Pascottini because of the state's interest in preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"Once one offers a service publicly, they must do so without impermissible exception," the judge wrote. "Therefore, plaintiff could refuse to photograph animals or even small children, just as an architect could design only commercial buildings and not private residents. Neither animals, nor small children, nor private residences are protected classes," he wrote.

Jordan Lorence, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), said it exposes the threat such laws pose to religious liberty.

"The court showed very little respect for that and said that this was no different than a caterer serving food and was liable to this same-sex couple."

Lorence points out New Mexico hasn't legalized same-sex unions.

"So, these couples are going through these ceremonies that have no legal significance to them," he said. "They're using these non-discrimination laws like 'blasphemy' laws, and they're going on witch hunts to root out the heretics and punish them."

The commission held a one-day trial and then issued an order in April 2008 finding that Elane Photography engaged in sexual orientation discrimination prohibited under state law, ordering it to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys' fees to Willock.

ADF appealed the commission's decision to the 2nd Judicial District Court, County of Bernalillo, in Elane Photography v. Willock in July 2008.

The court issued its ruling Friday.

Photography News


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