The U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear the appeal of a New Mexico photographer sued by a lesbian couple after she refused to take pictures at their commitment ceremony because of her religious convictions.
The case centered on Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin and their business, Elane Photography. In 2006, they refused to work at the commitment ceremony of Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth. The lesbian couple was able to find another photographer but still filed a discrimination grievance against Elane Photography with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.
The Huguenins lost at every level of the court fight, and on Monday that defeat became final. Attorney Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, represented Elane Photography in the case. He said the court’s decision not to hear the case is disappointing, but he sees a silver lining.
“This is not the same thing as the Court summarily affirming the decision below. All that means is that the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case. They did mull this over for three extra times at their conference, which is encouraging in a slight way that it means the justices took this case seriously, gave it a lot of extra consideration but decided, ultimately, not to hear the case,” Lorence said.
“There will be other cases coming through the pipeline. Alliance Defending Freedom already has some in the pipeline, the cake baker in Colorado, the florist in Washington state,” he said. “This does not set a nationwide precedent. And whether people can be forced to create expression that they don’t agree with or be punished by the government, that is still a general constitutional principle that ADF will be enforcing and arguing in courts around the land.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Attorney Jordan Lorence below:
The court never offers an explanation for refusing to hear a case, and Lorence said he cannot be certain why his clients won't get a hearing at the highest court in the land. However, he said the court's history suggests it's waiting for the issue to get bigger before wading into this aspect of the debate over the proper definition of marriage.
"They do have a general habit of waiting for an issue to percolate in the lower courts and not necessarily take the first one but take the third or the fourth one or something like that," he said. "Those who support redefining marriage to include same-sex couples may take the wrong signal from this and be emboldened to punish more employers or professionals or small business owners or graduate students or others for their views that marriage is only for one man and one woman."
Lorence admits court decisions all across America have trended in favor of same-sex marriage and similar causes in recent months. He said, regardless of how the nation may be trending on the larger issue of marriage, the rights of his clients and others to hold their beliefs should be an issue all Americans respect.
"I and many other Americans believe that the best public policy and social values to promote and maximize human flourishing is to define marriage as one man and one woman. Obviously, there is a growing number of people that disagree with that. But what I hope we all as American can agree on is that people should not be censored or punished or held up to public humiliation for having a view that is not supported by this new ascending orthodoxy," said Lorence, who also fears a very slippery slope in the wake of the frustrations endured by his clients and other business leaders who express support for traditional marriage.
"Americans need to stand up and just say, 'This has gone too far, that we can have reasonable debates without demonizing and ostracizing the losers of the debate or people that are on a side that the courts and others are not supporting right now,'" Lorence said.
"I had a case in Maine, where a social worker spoke out in a political campaign in support of marriage. He had complaints filed that he should lose his professional license as a social worker because of his position on marriage. I think the imagination of those zealots on the other side knows no boundaries, and they will be pushing this to ostracize and marginalize people as much as possible," he said.
"The Mozilla CEO case is another example of it, even though it wasn't (a legal case). We see increasing effort to hound people out of public life and put them into exile on the outskirts of society. As Americans, we need to be standing up and saying, 'This is not what our first amendment allows people to do.'"
So what happens for Elane Photography now that its loss in the lower courts officially stands? Lorence said Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin are still trying to figure that out.
"They are just every-day Americans who were living their lives and making decisions to the best of their ability to make money and also to protect their conscience. This case has obviously shoved them into the limelight. How they go about their business now they are assessing.
Obviously they're going to be a target for others who want to humiliate them or make them take pictures that they don't want to because of this court order," Lorence said.
"They're just assessing right now what next steps they should do and grieving over the fact that the Supreme Court unfortunately step in to vindicate their First Amendment rights."