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Is artistic freedom in jeopardy?

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney available to media following NM Supreme Court hearing over photographer’s conscience rights

Friday, Mar 8, 2013

Attorney sound bite:  Jordan Lorence

WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence
WHAT: Available for media interviews following hearing in Elane Photography v. Willock
WHEN: Monday, March 11, immediately following hearing 9 a.m. MDT
WHERE:  New Mexico Supreme Court, 237 Don Gaspar Ave., Santa Fe

SANTA FE, N.M. — Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence will be available for media interviews immediately following his oral argument at the New Mexico Supreme Court Monday in defense of an Albuquerque photographer’s freedom of conscience and artistic expression. The New Mexico Human Rights Commission forced Elaine Huguenin to pay more than $6,600 for declining to use her artistic expression to help two women celebrate a same-sex commitment ceremony.

“Americans in the marketplace should not be targets for legal attacks simply because they abide by their own values and beliefs,” said Lorence. “We trust the New Mexico Supreme Court will agree because the government should not be allowed to force a photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience. The Constitution clearly prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to advance a message with which they disagree.”

In August 2012, the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed to review an appellate court’s decision upholding the Human Rights Commission’s judgment against Elane Photography, the small business run by Huguenin and her husband Jonathan. The commission ruled that the company was guilty of “sexual orientation” discrimination under state antidiscrimination laws.

In 2006, Huguenin declined Vanessa Willock’s request to photograph a commitment ceremony that Willock and another woman wanted to hold in the town of Taos. Huguenin declined the request because her and her husband’s Christian beliefs conflict with the message communicated by the event, which Willock asked Huguenin to help her “celebrate.” New Mexico law does not recognize either marriage or civil unions between persons of the same sex.

Willock found another photographer for her ceremony, but nevertheless filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission against Elane Photography.

The commission held a one-day trial and then issued an order in April 2008 finding that Elane Photography engaged in “sexual orientation” discrimination prohibited under state law, ordering it to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to Willock.
  • Fact sheet on the case
  • Pronunciation guide: Lorence (LOHR’-ents)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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