SEE UPDATE BELOW
I’m going to try to type this out before my head hits the desk…
In 2006, an incident occurred in New Mexico, where a fundamentalist Christian photographer refused to photograph a gay wedding. NPR reported on it last year:
On January 28, 2008, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission heard the case of Vanessa Willock v. Elane Photography.
Willock, in the midst of planning her wedding to her girlfriend, sent the photography company an e-mail request to shoot the commitment ceremony. Elaine Huguenin, who owns the company with her husband, replied: “We do not photograph same-sex weddings. But thanks for checking out our site! Have a great day!”
A complaint was filed, and the wedding photographer retained the services of the Alliance Defense Fund, the legal house devoted to upholding Fundamentalist Christian victim complexes everywhere. Continued, from NPR:
In April, the state human rights commission found that Elane Photography was guilty of discrimination and must pay the Willock’s more than $6,600 attorneys’ fee bill. The photographers are appealing to state court.
They did appeal, and the ruling was released today. The higher court upheld the ruling of the human rights commission, and of course, ADF will appeal yet again. This, from the right-wing LifeSite News:
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 antidiscrimination laws for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony.”
The right-wing Christian set obviously doesn’t like this (as you can see by their use of scare quotes), but the ruling makes sense. If you want to do business in the state of New Mexico, your personal religious beliefs and biases aren’t relevant to your business dealings, and you don’t get to deny people service simply because you don’t like them. This is why non-discrimination laws exist.
Unfortunately, widely-read gay blog Queerty doesn’t seem to get it. Calling it a “frightening court ruling,” they reported it like this:
A photography company is not a public accommodation; it is a private business, which should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. Even if that means it’s engaged in discrimination. There’s a distinction between private companies and government-run entities, which must adhere to non-discrimination codes. But we wouldn’t want to see a court rule against a gay photographer who, on moral grounds, refused to take the business of a religious fundamentalist and homophobic couple.
Let the wedding photographers discriminate. It’s their choice who to engage in business with. And besides, what gay couple wants to patronize ‚Äî and, literally, fund ‚Äî a business that looks down on us?
Um, no. By the writer’s logic, it would be totally hunky dory for a fundamentalist Christian owner to deny food, housing, employment, or anything else to a gay couple, because after all, why would we want to give them money anyway?
Also by the same logic, it would be fine for a gay owner to deny housing or services to a fundamentalist couple. And no, that is not okay!
Refusing to photograph a gay wedding has nothing to do with the free exercise of a person’s religious beliefs. This was discrimination, pure and simple, and the photographers didn’t even try to hide it.
Either we believe in laws that protect people from undue discrimination or we don’t.
I sincerely hope the writer at Queerty simply didn’t think this one through before posting. Otherwise, he’s being no better than the Christianists who seek to deny the LGBT community life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at every turn.
UPDATE: The Queerty editors have posted the following note as an addendum to Travis Smith’s piece:
Ed: Rightfully so, a number of readers completely disagree with Mr. Smith’s argument. Queerty counts itself among them. We don’t maintain too many “policies,” but generally we’re in favor of prohibiting discrimination across the board, whether it’s based on religion or sexuality. We understand Mr. Smith’s rationale. We do not agree with it.
Glad to hear it.