Friday, April 11, 2008

The Discriminating Photographer

Alleged no more, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News, (NM commission rules photographer discriminated against gay couple, 4/11/08) Albuquerque photographer Elaine Huguenin violated New Mexico's discrimination law, according to a human rights panel.

The panel ruled that Elane Photography, owned by both Huguein and her husband Jon violated the state Human Rights Act by discriminating against Willock on the basis of sexual orientation, and should pay

(Continued after the Jump)
$6,637, which covers Vanessa Willock's costs and attorney's fees.

But it's not quite over yet. The Alliance Defense Fund is planning to appeal, and has 90 days to do so. The ADF is a Christian-based religious organization that defends religious liberties where they feel there is an infringement upon religious freedoms by government.

Related :2/28/08 - Rights: Yours, Mine, and Theirs.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

I think it’s really sad that people who call themselves Christians can be so closed minded. Would the same photographer turn down a wedding for a Muslim couple or a Jewish couple.
If you run a business that provides a service to the public, don’t expect everyone who walks in your door to have the same values or prejudices that you live by. Would this photographer turn down a wedding if they found out that a bride had an abortion previously?
This court case does put photographers in a precarious position, but people have civil rights that should be observed.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. I think that these people have made a personal choice (which I disagree with). They are not providing a public service such as transportation which everyone should have access to and they are not discriminating in their hiring practices which is illegal.

I believe they are doing the same thing Augusta Country Club (home of the Masters) does in not allowing women to be members. They are making a personal choice which I believe you are allowed to do in the United States whether I think it's total crap or not.

I would never do the same thing because I don't find anything wrong with it personally. The problem that we face sometimes in the US right now is that tolerant groups accuse you of being intolerant if you do not agree with them. They are being just as close-minded in many ways because they are not respecting your right to your opinion.

We need to understand that this country is huge and diverse. We can't expect everyone to believe the same way we do nor should we want them to.

When we find people like this, we take our business elsewhere. The power of the pocketbook can be so much more powerful!

Anonymous said...

Those Christians just love to be persecuted!

Honest to GOD! Keeping your prejudices or beliefs to yourself is just prudent. Responses such as "I'm booked already" or "I'm taking that weekend off" might be wiser than issuing loud guttural "blasphemer!" .... and slightly less litigious.

Didn't we all learn to use "Darling" and "Honey" to just the same effect for a different reason?

That's what you get for opening your big fat mouth - whether it's a pure heavenly mouth or not!

Mike Rothermel said...

This is ridiculous. The photographer was in no legal obligation to shoot their wedding.

To Anonymous: I don't see how you can call that "close-minded". It is simply standing by your belief.

As the above person said, it is not a "public service", per se. It is not for general use like a public restroom. If it were it would be wrong to block certain people (as security guards/police sometime do to photographers on public property).

If you can't tolerate someone who is "intolerant" of your belief - why should they tolerate you? You are being intolerant of their belief concerning your belief.

I hope people realize how stupid these lawsuits are, soon.

Anonymous said...

Lets take out photographer and substitute painter. Does the lawsuit still make sense?

I think there are some behind the scenes stuff going on here. More than just a lesbian couple wanting pictures.

Tammy said...

This is a tricky issue, I think, with no clear winner on either side of the debate. On the one hand, you can argue that the photographer has a First Amendment right not to be forced to, in effect, engage in artistic expression which violates her personal religious beliefs. On the other hand, a commercial business has a reasonable duty not to discriminate against its clientele.

Look at it this way: What if Elane Photography instituted a policy that they refused, on moral grounds, to shoot portraits of African-Americans? How about if she said that she wasn't willing to work with Jewish clients? On the other side of the coin, what if a restaurant manager decided he was only going to give reservations to white Christian people?

The law, then, tries to strike a balance between protecting the rights of the artist to engage in free expression, and the rights of her clients not to be discriminated against. It's a tough balance to draw, and I don't think the courts and legislature always draw it in the right place. But for better or worse, this is where they've drawn it in that case.

That being said, I also think both parties in this case acted really foolishly. From the plaintiff's standpoint, why try to force a photographer to work with you when she doesn't want to? A coercive collaboration is hardly likely to produce good results. And, from the defendant's side, why turn this into an issue in the first place? Why not simply say, "I'm not sure I'll be available that day, but let me refer you to someone else" and be done with the whole mess?

It strikes me from what I've read that both sides in this case went into things spoiling for a confrontation. And they got one. It hardly seems fair to complain about it now. said...

I turned down the job of photographing a 'union' between 2 women because I was not comfortable with the work and was honest with the caller. I have also turned down photographing bellies of pregnant women because I think the concept is ridiculous. Whether its 'not my thing' or 'I'm not comfortable', what does it matter?

Can we freaking disagree about someone's lifestyle choice and move on?

Would I be hateful if a client wanted me to photograph them in a sexually provocative manner and I refused? Am I being discriminating against the poor because a client can't afford my prices? What criteria is allowed if we cannot make decisions based on personal preference?

Perhaps a group of nudists are having their nuptials in the buff or a satanic church is bringing together 2 members to be.... whatever they might call it. I want no part but I suppose that opens me up to lawsuits.

Give me a break.

Perhaps if we call ourselves 'wedding' photographers and define a marriage as between a man and woman, per Biblical doctrine, then Elane could have refused the 'commitment ceremony' as not being a wedding at all.

Political correctness, please take a back seat.

Tim Albertson said...

First of all, thanks to John for bringing a case like this to our attention. It is very worthy of contemplation and discussion regardless of how each of us personally would have handled the situation. As for my own thought, I have to agree with John Powell and Mike Rothermel. While I do not believe in discriminating against others based on their beliefs, neither do I believe that I need to support actions that I find morally objectionable. Photographing something like this lends itself to portraying the event in a POSITIVE light. To photograph it well, would be to suggest that "this is a good thing...see, isn't it beautiful..." I do not hate gay people, nor do I necessarily think that the folks at Elane Photography do. They simply don't want to support something that they personally find morally wrong and goes against their biblical convictions, and I think that the constitution backs such a choice.

Anonymous said...

This one is pretty simple for me: Does the public subsidize the photographer's business? Is the photographer an agent, in anyway shape or form for either her local or state government? Did the couple have a remedy choice available to provide the photographic services in a similar manner? No connection, lots of remedy choices. Sorry no case in my mind. However, her choice to tell them that she disagrees with the premise of the event based on her own personal beliefs was poor to say the least. I don't know one photographer who shoots weddings and events who doesn't ask what's the date as the first question. all she had to do was say she was booked. End of story. Now we get to hear from Jay Sekulow for months. I prefer closet haters myself. After living in Dallas for 12 years all I can say is the Gay and Lesbian community pumps a lot of money into the local tax district with very little draw from it. Again all she had to do was say she was booked. Thanks to John and others for the discussion.SRE

Dave said...

Thanks John for posting this.


Anonymous said...

This story is a business lesson.

There are specific protected groups covered by federal law. States have a second set of civil rights laws, which may include more protected groups, depending on the state.

Do your homework. Find out who they are, and what you can or cannot do.

Debate all you want here about the fairness/sensibility of protected classes, but it won't help you.

Learn what law applies to you, just like you would learn what sales tax rules apply to you.

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