This morning the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not review or decide whether to overturn or affirm a New Mexico Supreme Court case involving a lesbian couple's complaint of being denied the services of a particular photographer for their commitment ceremony.
The case stems from 2007 when Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth, a New Mexico lesbian couple, wanted Elane Photography to photograph their commitment ceremony. The husband and wife team of Elane Photography chose not to photograph the couple's ceremony as they said it was a conflict of their religious beliefs. Elane Photography has stated they were always happy to photograph gays and lesbians for portraits and other instances however drew the line when it came to commitment or wedding ceremonies. Willock and Collinsworth complained to the New Mexico Human Rights Commission as they felt their rights were being violated by Elane Photography. The Commission, as well as ultimately the New Mexico Supreme Court, agreed with the couple, however Elane Photography attempted to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court. At this point it would appear Elane Photography is out of options and will have no choice but be forced to photograph instances which may be contrary to their religious views.
The libertarian point of view on this matter would side with Elane Photography, and though most libertarians would find it deplorable and a poor business decision, it becomes a personal and business rights issue. The lesbian couple was never forced to use this particular photographer as there are plenty of others willing to offer their services to them. Yet, the U.S. Constitutional rights of the owners of the photography service are being violated through so-called 'anti-discrimination' laws by being forced to offer services to those they wish not to serve. Libertarians are more often than not on the side of gay rights, however when they trample on the rights of another is where there may become a divide.
The Libertarian Party's official position on personal relationships is as follows:
"Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships."
So while the Libertarian Party is clearly on the side of gays and lesbians, it should not be confused with using government force to violate the rights of others to conduct commerce they way they see fit. As noted earlier in this article, while most libertarians I have spoken with view the actions of Elane Photography as deplorable and not in the best interest of their business, they do respect their decision to do so. It is worth noting that another plank in the Libertarian Party's platform reads:
"A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society."
Libertarians would likely be in favor of repealing existing laws and policies intended to condemn, affirm, encourage or deny sexual lifestyles, or any set of attitudes about such lifestyles. Such actions would make gay rights truly equal.