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Supreme Court won't hear case about business refusing service for gay wedding

Supreme Court declines to hear case about photographer refusing service to a gay couple
Supreme Court declines to hear case about photographer refusing service to a gay couple
Getty Images/ Chip Somodevilla

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the case involving a photographer from New Mexico who refused to photograph a gay couple’s wedding ceremony. By declining to hear the case, the decision made by New Mexico’s highest court is left to stand. That decision, which was also supported by lower courts, was that the photographer was discriminating against the couple.

The photographer, named Elaine Hugeuenin, and her husband run a photography studio together. Though the studio says it will offer services such as portraits to gay couples, they would not be able to photograph a “nontraditional” wedding. The Huguenins’ statement to the court was that photographing a gay or lesbian wedding would “require them to create expression conveying messages that conflict with their religious beliefs.”

Though the couple’s statement often discusses their religious background, the defense that was used was the First Amendment. In their petition to the court, the Huguenins and their lawyer say that since Elaine’s photography is an artistic expression, she shouldn’t be forced to say something she doesn’t believe by the government.

However, the New Mexico human right commission found that the couple did violate the New Mexico Human rights act. The commission stated that not providing your public service to a gay couple would be on the same level as not providing service to a mixed race couple. The high court stated that offering photography as a public service was a business decision and is not about freedom of speech.

Gay rights groups are viewing the Supreme Court’s declination as a ‘win’ for gay rights issues. In their view, they believe that selling a public service, like wedding photography, does not explicitly mean that the business owner supports the customer’s marriage. They state that it is simply a business owner’s responsibility to protect customers from discrimination. They believe it is a practice that businesses must all adhere to, without exception.