Violating your religious beliefs is the “price of citizenship” in New Mexico.
And violating your artistic integrity is the price of doing business.
That’s the lesson to draw from Thursday’s ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court that found that a Christian couple, Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin of Elane Photography, violated the state’s Human Rights Act when they declined to photograph a commitment ceremony for two lesbians.
According to the Associated Press, the unanimous ruling rejected the Huguenins’ argument that compelling them to take pictures of the event “violated the photographer’s right to free speech and the free exercise of religious beliefs.”
A business is free to advertise its beliefs in traditional marriage, the court ruled, or even advertise its opposition to same sex “commitment ceremonies.” But it would still have to provide the same service to two men or two women that it would provide – for a fee — to a man and a woman.
It’s no different, the court ruled, than if it were a wedding involving people of different races.
But that’s not the point. This case isn’t about renting a dining hall, selling flowers or catering the London broil – commodities that know no religion. It’s about photography — as much an art form reflecting the artist’s beliefs and individual integrity as a business that pays the bills.
Or as Jonathan Huguenin put it during testimony to the New Mexico Human Rights Commission:
“We wanted to make sure that everything we photographed — everything we used our artistic ability for, everything we told a story for or conveyed a message of — would be in line with our religious beliefs.”
Under the court’s logic, the law could compel a painter to create a portrait of the ceremony, or a sculptor to make them immortal in stone, if he’d agreed to do the same for others.
It’s ludicrous on its face. But in Mexico now, it’s the law. Or, as New Mexico Justice Richard Bossin wrote — channeling the inner Oliver Wendell Holmes he’s been probably fantasizing about since law school – its’ “the price of citizenship.”
The Huguenins’ attorney, Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defending Freedom, put it a little more plainly:
“Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country,” he said. “This decision is a blow to our client and every American’s right to live free.”