Elane Photographer’s appeal to Supreme Court turned down

You may recall the case of the New Mexico company named Elane Photographers that I wrote about in December that was sued because they refused to provide their services to a same-sex wedding because of religious objections. Their case went all the way up to the New Mexico Supreme Court that ruled against them, saying that as they were a public accommodation offering their services to all, they did not have the right to arbitrarily deny service to people without good grounds and that denying them to same-sex couples violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The company appealed to the US Supreme Court but yesterday their request for a hearing was turned down. As is their custom, no reasons were given for not hearing the case.

One reason may be that in their appeal, Elane shifted the emphasis to whether the photographers were practicing artistic expression as opposed to providing a routine service and thus were exempt from the public accommodation requirement.

Another reason for rejection may be that the New Mexico Supreme Court ruling had suggested a simple remedy that the photographers and people like them could follow.

Businesses that choose to be public accommodations must comply with the NMHRA, although such businesses retain their First Amendment rights to express their religious or political beliefs. They may, for example, post a disclaimer on their website or in their studio advertising that they oppose same-sex marriage but that they comply with applicable antidiscrimination laws. (p.4)

Such a sign would surely keep away same-sex couples who would not want to engage the services of a hostile vendor at their wedding. The problem is that nowadays the tide has shifted so much that people who object to equal rights for the LGBT community sometimes want to hide their views.


  1. Randy Lee says

    A thorough understanding of the issue of standing is necessary in any society that wishes to properly and justly balance the rights of its participants.

    For instance, this case reveals how the N.M. supreme court utilized a twisted an unequal application of standing pursuant to the public accomodations law to unlawfully authorize involuntary servitude.

    Anyone who is compelled to provide service to another under any law is in a state of involuntary servitude.

    Elane Huguenin, a wedding photographer in New Mexico, refused to provide her services to a lesbian couple planning a “commitment ceremony”. The couple experienced no problem finding another photographer willing to provide the service, but thanks to the couple’s punitive impulses – and the totalitarian “public accommodations” law of N.M. the couple were successful in extracting fines from Huguenin that offset the costs of their photographs.

    By declining the couple’s business, Elane Huguenin did not injure or defraud anybody. But because artificial and arbitrary legal standing, as opposed to lawful standing requiring an injury, had been created by a statute declaring the couple to be part of a “specially protected class” they became entitled to more than the equal treatment and application of law. A “standing” to sue was created by statute that did not exist before the passage of said statute (public accomodations statute). Such standing to sue is mere privilege granted by statute and does not equate to an actual natural right. See the distinction between rights and privileges pointed out in #31 or the Professor’s recent blog article.entitled, “How getting money from the government can be injurious” @ http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2014/04/05/how-getting-money-from-the-government-can-be-injurious/#comment-1815600

    But compare this situation with that of Antonio Darden, a gay hairdresser from Santa Fe who earned nation-wide publicity a couple of years ago when he announced that he would not accept business from New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez because she is an opponent of same-sex marriage. Both Huguenin and Darden exercised their property rights by declining proposed business transactions. But Darden was permitted to do so, because Governor Susana Martinez did not belong to a “specially protected” class.

    How can this be seen as equality? Both Darden and Huguenin chose to avoid involuntary servitude by an exercise of their right to property, or their control over their own person and their actions. Can lawful ‘standing’ be shown to exist because one group claims a right to put the other in a state of involuntary servitude? Did the white man have lawful standing at the natural law to enslave the black man? Was the white man a “special class” or were both races equal? Were the property interests of the white man greater than those of the black man?
    Standing to bring an action where an exercise of a property right is concerned can only exist where an injury can be shown to have resulted from the exercise of the right.

    Huguenin’s attorneys argued that the statute violated the free speech and religious liberty “guarantees” of the First Amendment. Counsel should have argued that the state’s Human Rights Act — which was amended in 2003 to include “sexual orientation” within the protected categories — represents a wholesale violation of property rights. But it is unlikely that this argument would find traction, in a society where property rights are not properly understood.

    Our culture is presently brainwashed by the Marxist madness surrounding the “abolition of private property” rights in return for communal privileges. Without realizing it, humankind is giving up their independence in exchange for communal control. There can be no independence, no freedom, once the right to property is violated. At that moment, one’s full right to life and their pursuit of happiness is denied.

    I never expected the US Supremes to hear this case. They don’t won’t to deal with these issues. And if “standing”, as I have framed it above, had been Elane’s defense, the Supremes would have ignored the queston also. The only way this present communal society can continue to exist in its present form is to ignore these hard questions. I know from experience, these sorts of questions are absolutely destructive to the core of collectivist philosophy. Any honest answer destroys the foundations of all collectivist political models. Now what good Comrad would want to do that?

  2. filethirteen says

    Randy, your febrile outrage at the term “involuntary servitude” seems to be carrying you away.

    Would you prefer a return to the cowboy age, to the bar owner that spits in front of the gay/black/female/jew/protestant/(the list goes on) person attempting to enter with a “we don’t serve your kind here”?

    If not, that’s “involuntary servitude” you’re condoning.

    If so, unfortunately for you civilization has moved on and left you behind. Sorry, but we’ll have to agree to differ.

  3. says

    Randy @1:

    Anyone who is compelled to provide service to another under any law is in a state of involuntary servitude.

    No one was requiring them to be photographers serving the public in the first place. All that was demanded of them was that they serve all members of the public who are willing to pay them. That is not remotely comparable to what is normally meant by ‘involuntary servitude’ – i.e. slavery, being forced to do a job you didn’t choose, for no money. It is deeply condescending to trivialise those who actually suffer from the imposition of slavery-like conditions to equate the two.

    And the second response is: okay, if you’re going to define ‘involuntary servitude’ that widely, then, who cares? It is better if everyone takes on the burden of that extremely small amount of ‘involuntary servitude’ that merely involves them doing the job they were already doing, but for people they don’t like personally, than for them to be able to treat some of their fellow citizens like dirt and limit their freedom (at least their freedom to choose the photographer they want to hire). The fact that the plaintiffs here happened to be able to find an alternative photographer does not take away from the general principle that allowing businesses to arbitrarily bar whole classes of people sets a very dangerous precedent for those who find themselves in a minority demographic in an intolerant society, for whom there may well be no such alternatives within reasonable travelling distances, or within their budget.

    There are two competing freedoms here. You cannot both recognise a right to treat your fellow citizens like dirt and a right to not be treated like dirt by your fellow citizens. You seem to be saying that the first is more important than the second – that the only limitations on people’s freedom that we ought to be concerned about are those that derive from government, and that limitations on people’s freedom imposed by other citizens is a non-issue. I don’t really understand why. Certainly I would rather live in a society where I knew I was going to be treated with courtesy by anyone I wished to do business with (at the cost of having to treat everyone else with courtesy who wants to do business with me) than a society where I was liable to be refused service and humiliated by potentially anyone who didn’t like the likes of me (at the ‘gain’ of being allowed to do the same). It seems that there is greater freedom in the former – everyone is free to do business with everyone – than the latter – people are only free to do business with those who have no ideological objection to their demographic; it’s just that it’s a freedom which has to be maintained by preventing those who want to discriminate from doing so.

    And I would contend that the imposition on the photographers here – that they simply do their job for people they don’t like – is significantly less than the imposition you would wish on the plaintiffs – namely risk being turned away, put to extra inconvenience and expense and made to feel like second-class citizens by pretty much anyone who takes a shine against same-sex couples. That is the ‘injury’ that the photographers caused; not a physical injury, or even necessarily a financial one, but a very real psychological one which anyone with an ounce of compassion would not wish to defend.

  4. Chiroptera says

    Huh. Argument by Making Up My Own Meanings As I Go Along? I think that may be a fallacy.

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