Christian Photographers Must Compromise Beliefs in Same-Sex Marriage
This is definitely something worth reading and being aware of. It impacts us all. And hang on, because this has religion and politics all rolled into one.
Just a few months ago the New Mexico courts ruled against a local photographer for turning down a Same-Sex wedding.
In 2006 Vanessa WIllock asked Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin to document a same-sex “commitment ceremony” and the Huguenins turn down the job because of their Christian beliefs. They felt it was in conflict with the message of the ceremony.
Willock eventually found another photographer to document their day, but filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission accusing Elaine and Jonathan of discrimination based on sexual orientation. They were found guilty by a unanimous decision and ordered to pay thousands in fines
This is real life everyone not some fictitious story. No matter where you live, no matter what kind of portrait or wedding photography you offer, you have to understand how this can impact you and your business.
Here is what the court ruled. According to Justice Richard Bosson, “The Huguenins today can no more turn away customers on the basis of their sexual orientation – photographing a same-sex marriage ceremony – than they could refuse to photograph African-Americans or Muslims.”
The court has ruled and has truly set precedence here. In addition, the couple lost several rounds of appeals because the state’s law forbids “public accommodations” from discriminating on the basis of orientation.
However, according to a Rasmussen study 85% of American adults believe that photographers have the right to say no.
This is such an interesting topic for me. Why? Because it has the ability to impact every one of us and our businesses. I can honestly say, I try to almost never mix business and religion and politics together. I truly could care less. If two people love each other, they love each other. Within the last year or so, we have photographed President Obama – for the record I am neither Republican nor Democrat – as a business owner, I am more of a moderate (just in case you cared) and we have photographed a same-sex marriage – and as an Italian American I am a Catholic (again, just in case you cared).
Personally, I think that when you start your own business you have to understand, you can not pick and chose your clients based on race, color, sex, handicap, religion, etc. This to me is business 101, but I think to many photographers it might not be.
In one sense, I do applaud the Huguenins for standing up for what they believe in, however, in another, I am appalled at the discrimination exhibited by them. The world is filled with people who don’t see eye to eye with my religious, political or life views, I can’t imagine alienating them as clients. I would be out of business.
Now, I will say, I am also surprised that a case was filed by Willock. I get it. They were denied service and that’s not ok, but would you really want someone participating in your day that just doesn’t believe in the very marriage you are asking them to document? Especially a photographer.
So, here is the question, does free exercise of religion extend to how you run your business? What are your thoughts?
READ THE SUPREME COURT DECISION AND NOTES – Christian Photographers Must Compromise Beliefs in Same-Sex Marriage
Intelligent discussion only. All IGNORANT comments will be deleted.
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This Post Has 48 Comments
Dan Gonzalez: “Interesting how no one has addressed the questions on this board regarding, am I compelled to do the wedding celebrated with a satanic ritual, the wedding between a 15 year old and 45 year old (yes it could happen legally in this country), the wedding at a cult ceremony that involves an orgy? Forget standing on religious freedom, can I skip the orgy wedding because it’s yucky? Those who say I must do the gay wedding are compelled to say i must do all of these weddings, and any other non-traditional legal union I can think up.”
I’ll address this. Let’s do them one at a time.
Wedding celebrated with a Satanic ritual: This scenario is too vague to be a true hypothetical. There are many many possibilities here. If it is a normal ceremony but between two Satanists, you can’t turn it down because of their beliefs; but certainly you could turn it down if you find the ceremony itself involves an illegal activity. If two Wiccans were having an otherwise normal legal ceremony, you couldn’t deny them on the basis of their Wiccan beliefs. But if they said they were going to slaughter an animal at the ceremony, you could by all rights say you don’t want to photograph a ceremony killing an animal. Even if animal sacrifice was legal in that jurisdiction, you could still deny being present at the activity. I doubt any court would suggest you were turning them down because of their religion. If you’re a photographer who is a member of PETA you can turn down all the weddings you want based on the receptions serving food with animal products in them. You aren’t turning down the business based on the clients’ religious beliefs. “Meat eaters” is not a protected class 😉
Wedding between a 15 year old and 35 year old: Again, an extreme hypothetical, but let’s go with it: If you turn down an otherwise perfectly legal wedding ceremony, specifically and only based on the bride’s or groom’s age, yes probably you would have a legal problem, assuming of course you explicitly stated that’s why you were turning them down. However if for instance you met with the couple and basically suggested overall they weren’t a good fit with you, and leave it with that, there really is no problem.
Cult ceremony involving an orgy: LOL. Can’t wait till someone asks me to shoot one of those. But to your question, you are asking about a particular practice at a ceremony. You can turn it down. You can turn down weddings on the beach or at bookstores or in brothels or bathhouses. You can turn down weddings involving ceremonial bubble-machines or lots of incense or bells if this stuff is annoying to you. If a ceremony involves sex and you’re not into shooting it, just say no. Just because the participants are of a particular religious persuasion or in a cult, doesn’t mean there aren’t 55 other reasons for you to turn down a wedding justifiably. The court ruling isn’t that if a straight couple was having an orgy you can turn it down but if a gay couple was having an orgy you can’t. The court ruling is that you can’t turn down doing a wedding for a gay couple that you would otherwise be happy to perform for a straight couple, the one and only reason for turning it down being their sexual orientation. So again, turning down an otherwise legal ceremony which doesn’t violate basic community standards of obscenity, because the couple is “cultist” – no. Turning down a ceremony with highly questionable legality or obscenity or animal sacrifice or some other component which is simply insulting to you personally, sure probably ok unless you say the thing that insults you is the couple’s sexual orientation in general. 😉
hmm above where I said “…you are barred from offering your services…” I meant if “… you are barred from WITHHOLDING your services…”
Dan Gonzalez: “You… have an idea that a person has religious freedom if they’re allowed to go to the church of their choice and pray in the privacy of their own homes.”
Actually Dan, that’s correct. Religious liberty is in fact the ability to go the the church of your choice, or not. And it is the ability to pray and worship in privacy of your own home, or not. And, your religious liberty as protected by the constitution is not impinged by the fact that as a business, a “public accommodation”, you are barred from offering your services to someone based on their religion, race, etc. You are still protected by the 1st amendment in your religious practices.
Dan: “But the moment we say in public that Jesus is Lord we’re accused of “forcing” our beliefs on people. And should we say that we believe marriage should be between one man and one woman, we’re threatened with hate crimes…”
This is actually not true. You may get vocal disagreement, and you might get boycotted, and get bad press, but you are not breaking the law and you will not get prosecuted for it. Sure, people will opine that you are “forcing” your beliefs on them, but that’s their opinion. You are NOT going to get charged with hate crimes though. Legally under the constitution you can say “Jesus is Lord” in public and you can say in public that you believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. Even as a business you can say all these things. In fact, if you look at the ruling in this New Mexico case, it actually says the Huguenins are perfectly within their rights to say aloud and state and on their business website and their business collateral, that they do not agree with gay marriage. They could also say publicly they think homosexuality is a sin and that gays who marry are going to Hell. The suggestion by the court is that it’s not very likely a gay couple would come to you to shoot their wedding if they knew this, BUT if they still wanted you to do it, that as a business you can’t turn down their wedding on the basis of sexual preference.
There’s a lot to address here, so I’ll just kind of pick one thing at a time. A number of responses have questioned how a “private business” can be forced by the government to take certain weddings like the above. Understand, being a “private business” is not the same things as being a “private citizen.” The term “private business” really just means the business is privately owned. But, it is still a business offering services to the public. So, if you are in business, legally, and are offering your services to the public, for pay, you are a “public accommodation.” And so, according to the law, you can NOT withhold those services on the basis of race, religion, etc., and in this case according the New Mexico’s law, this includes sexual orientation. You are a business, and in the United States a business must operate under certain rules, for the public good. Those rules prohibit discrimination. This actually isn’t very complicated. So, this also answers the question I saw from a number of comments asking how “we as ‘artists’ could be compelled to shoot something we personally don’t agree with”? Well, as “artists” we are not. If you were just doing an art project or series, and were not shooting as a licensed business and were not getting paid to do so, then as an “artist” you can photograph anything you please, and you can choose to photograph only white people or straight people or dogs but not cats or catholics but not protestants. But as a business, offering your services to the public for pay, you can not turn away a prospective customer for being a part of a protected class. Finally, yes, the Huguenins could have met with the couple and simply said they weren’t “the right fit” or something like that, and there wouldn’t have been a problem. But the Huguenins SPECIFICALLY stated to the couple that they turned down the request because they were gay. The Huguenins in fact fought the fines and court rulings all the way to the NM Supreme Court because they felt they were in the right.
I am a Christian (if you care), I own a business, not a photography business, but I do love my photography passion. All I can say is, how in the world will a “good Christian” win the heart of a non Christian by not showing God’s love, Jesus ate with the lowest of low. If we, as Gods people only associate with “good Christians” how will the “non-Christian” #1 view us, #2 know what love is, #3 come to a relationship with God?
The only photography I would avoid at all cost is porn!
They should have shown the love of God! And shot the wedding!
CDP –While I doubt anyone is still checking this post I can’t help but respond to you. You’re right, it is not my wife’s job (as a photographer) to bring the love of Christ to any situation. However, it is her calling as a Christian and her right as a citizen to do so. Neither you nor anyone else has to hire her; but neither are you allowed to bully her or NOT higher her based SOLELY on her religious beliefs, spoken or unspoken. You, like the person who posted the ridiculous article from the Huffington Post, have an idea that a person has religious freedom if they’re allowed to go to the church of their choice and pray in the privacy of their own homes. But the moment we say in public that Jesus is Lord we’re accused of “forcing” our beliefs on people. And should we say that we believe marriage should be between one man and one woman, we’re threatened with hate crimes, or have our businesses targeted by political thugs (see Chick-fil-a). Jesus charged his followers to preach the Gospel. It’s a fundamental element of Christianity. If laws prevent us from freely, peacefully, doing that, then we no longer have freedom of religion. Also, you clearly have no clue what it really means to bring the love of Christ to every situation. You assume I mean coming into the wedding shouting “repent! Jesus is Lord!” While some may feel called to do that, and subsequently be fired for being disruptive, what I really mean is my wife coming in and doing an awesome job, being kind and caring, praying for them, being there if they need anything, but NOT hiding that she’s a Catholic Christian believer. That is, she’d treat them the same way she treats the unmarried straight couple that’s living together, the struggling divorced women who seem to gravitate toward my wife and seek her friendship, and the straight traditional family. That said, no one should be forced to take pictures that violate their religious conscience. Constitutional protection of religious liberty trumps “right to have pictures taken” or at least it should. Interesting how no one has addressed the questions on this board regarding, am I compelled to do the wedding celebrated with a satanic ritual, the wedding between a 15 year old and 45 year old (yes it could happen legally in this country), the wedding at a cult ceremony that involves an orgy? Forget standing on religious freedom, can I skip the orgy wedding because it’s yucky? Those who say I must do the gay wedding are compelled to say i must do all of these weddings, and any other non-traditional legal union I can think up. Or do gays have rights not afforded to others, at least in the State of New Mexico? And I’m sorry, but I have to say one last thing to IDAHOGIE (though I’m probably just talking to myself at this point) — Your response to whether or not I could sue a gay couple for dropping me for my religious beliefs is ridiculous. You may as well say that it’s okay legally to have “no whites allowed” restaurants because whites are the ones in power; or better yet, a gay bar with a “no straight people allowed” sign because straight people are the ones in power.
idahogie – “Your sense of concern for the people who have the power in a given relationship is touching, but shouldn’t come into play legally.”
Why is this? Why is their position in a relationship any less “legally viable” then the other party?
Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
If the mixed-sex photographers sought to block the same-sex ceremony by picketing or by legal means, the above statement would not be true.
If the same-sex couple forces the mixed-sex couple to photography their wedding, the above statement would not be true.
Were the same-sex couple deprived of anything that was crucial to their survival, their ability to commit, or their ability to have their ceremony photographed. No, No, and No.
idahogie – “Let’s keep in mind that the photographers here VIOLATED STATE LAW. It’s not rocket science.”
Just because it is the law does not mean it is correct. ‘Separate but equal’ was the law, but it was not correct or good.
Today’s world is crazy. We are told it is against the law to hold race, religion, or sexual preference against another individual. Yet, we are being forced, by laws today, to accept them based on such. It appears the laws are soon to remove the religious part of discrimination. Isn’t being treated like a human enough?
Not know the circumstances regarding how the photographers were approached makes this a tough call. If they requested the service based on sexual preference then what they did was a form of entrapment. They baited the scene waiting for a specific response.
Idahogie, I believe in don’t ask – don’t tell. Seal the deal as a human being and everything is good. I only judge if forced to.
Sooooo if it involves a wedding, you can be a douchebag & claim your deplorable beliefs make it okay??? NO, you can’t! Not the photo taker, the dress maker nor the cake baker. Not the limo driver or flower arranger or the jeweler. Here’s a great idea–stop using your religion for being an arrogant & awful person!!!!
Rachel — I think your best bet is to change your “beliefs” and become a better person. Then you don’t have to figure out how to deceive.
There are plenty of Christians (perhaps most) who have zero problem with marriage equality. And there is no reason for you to, other than personal preference.
Idahogie: point taken. But the trap is set then. But is it a lie to say I’m unavailable when it goes against my personal beliefs? Wouldn’t it be more of a lie to go against my beliefs and support something that goes against them?
I wouldn’t have a problem shooting a same-sex wedding, but I have a problem with the government saying I have to do so if I want to shoot “traditional” weddings.
idahogie: “There is no protection for racist or bigoted views in the Constitution, or in New Mexico’s state laws.”
There is no protection for such views until they are encapsulated in religious views.
The Constitution does protect a persons right to adhere to whatever religion they want, and sometimes those religious beliefs can be viewed as racist/bigoted/immoral. To work off of Bryan’s example above, this law seems to force a wedding photographer who is a member of PETA to shoot a wedding in which the ceremony involves the ritual killing of an animal. (In fact, if I was a member of such a religion (and I’m definitely not), I would probably seek out a PETA member to shoot my wedding.)
Some people have commented that they violated state law. This is true, but the whole question this case revolves around is whether or not the state law itself was unconstitutional. State laws have frequently been found to be unconstitutional and thus invalid. ‘Law’ in the U.S. is fundamentally mutable, and our history is filled with heroes who challenged the legitimacy of the laws as then-written.
In the end, I find myself conflicted. The various anti-discrimination laws are fundamentally limitations on freedoms otherwise protected by the first amendment. These limitations often benefit our society. But if photography is an expression that should be protected by the first amendment (and this is really the argument that allows copyright protections for photography), should we ever be compelled by law to express something against our beliefs? Or are photographers just operators of fancy security cameras that document what happens?
idahogie I believe that you would have better luck convincing a brick wall to assemble itself before reaching certain people with logic. Think of it this way…no matter how many irrational things are written in a book (of any kind), if someone is going to base their life from something that’s thousands of years old and highly outdated then it’s going to be very difficult to use any logic that a modern adult would use when it comes to making a conclusion. You example of lying (sinning) to counter another sin is perfect. But the argument of someone who does not have it all together will just make up something…anything to get out of it. Imagine kids playing tag “Tag, I got you!” “Nope, you didn’t get me I was on an invisible base so I’m safe.” This is the game you’re trying to play.
Kari, I’m not sure where you logic or study of history has come from…other than just “googling” information I would consider some further education before throwing out general one liners and simplified reasons of the First Amendment. I know it’s tempting to distort the facts to match your personal viewpoint (guilty many times before of this myself). But rather than just “hey look here’s a random line that totally supports my argument”…I suggest a bit more education on the issue.
Dan Gonzalez why is it the job of your wife as the wedding photographer to try to introduce the “love of Christ” to her paying clients? That would turn me right off hiring anyone. I don’t expect a lecture from my plumber, electrician, mechanic. I certainly wouldn’t want a photographer I have hired to try to convert me to their religion.
I’m straight btw. I’m also an athiest. It doesn’t stop me shooting religious wedding ceremonies and I certainly wouldn’t attempt to try to persuade my clients that my beliefs are correct and theirs are wrong. Business is business. Be respectful and keep your boundaries.
Rachel: “I agree with a previous poster that as a photographer if we are conflicted, we can always be “busy” or “unavailable” at that time and I think that would solve the issue right up front.”
Very strange to see the religious-based arguments being made here (not just by Rachel). Many are agreeing that lying (a sin) is OK in this case, just to avoid taking pictures of some people (not a sin).
Somehow, I think many people don’t really understand their own religion. Again, if you want to determine if your religious freedom is under threat, here’s an easy test: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-emily-c-heath/how-to-determine-if-your-religious-liberty-is-being-threatened-in-10-questions_b_1845413.html
Short answer: No. Your religious freedom is not under any threat if you cannot discriminate against gay marriages.
P. R. Kane: “I see the point of not protecting discrimination and at the same time I wonder if it would be okay to refuse doing work for a racist group such as the KKK.”
No. There is no protection for racist or bigoted views in the Constitution, or in New Mexico’s state laws.
Let’s keep in mind that the photographers here VIOLATED STATE LAW. It’s not rocket science.
Dan Gonzales: “Can I sue them for discriminating against me based on my religion? If the law is not a double-edged sword, then it’s just arbitrary.”
Of course not. Don’t be silly. That’s like demanding minimum wage protections for CEOs. Your sense of concern for the people who have the power in a given relationship is touching, but shouldn’t come into play legally.
Do you think that southern restaurant owners needed protections against their black customers when the customers were demanding the right to be treated equally? Is that really where your concern lies?
You individually have the same protections based on your religion. You’ve had those protections at the state level and nationally for decades. That’s what makes it so crazy that people want to deny those protections to LGBTQ individuals. Strangely enough, the fact that you cannot deny people services because of religion has not lead to anyone claiming that their freedom of religion is being threatened.
This is a sticky situation. I understand that the same-sex couple has rights, but so do the photographers. In this country we have freedom of religion, which is amazingly wonderful because in many many countries, people do not. So, by Willock filing a suit, she was basically saying that HER rights were more important than the Christian photographers’ rights. If it’s going to conflict with their belief in God, don’t make them do it or sue them. In my life, God comes before business, and therefore, if I were asked to participate in something that went against my Christian beliefs, I would not do it. However, my husband and I discussed this in length and have a system as to how to get out of jobs that bother our consciences without getting sued.
Also, Dan Gonzalez above has a VERY valid point – same-sex couples dump him because he is Catholic. THAT is discrimination. Should he sue them?
We should not be forced to do something we don’t feel comfortable with. Period.
Because this is such a slippery slope I’m left with 2 thoughts…
1) Certainly you cannot refuse to provide services based on reasons that could be potentially be interpreted as discrimination (and I wouldn’t want to) however for what reasons are we legally entitled to deny services… or turn down photographing a wedding, etc.? A full schedule obviously but how about some other legit examples? Simply saying I wouldn’t be comfortable is to open ended and could potentially be interpreted as discrimination.
2) Where the government or system is concerned in anyway shape or form, yes we as people have the right to free speech however more often than not we most often need to exercise ‘The right to remain silent’ because anything said may or may not be held against you/we/us/I.
I have mulled over this topic off and on over the past year. I’ve talked about it with my husband. While I don’t agree with the homosexual lifestyle, I still respect all people regardless of their orientation. I agree with a previous poster that as a photographer if we are conflicted, we can always be “busy” or “unavailable” at that time and I think that would solve the issue right up front. Personally, I think the gay couple should have respected the photographer’s choice not to participate in the ceremony. There is no respect for religion anymore, in fact, I’d say that those who dare to stand up for what they believe in are persecuted just as much. Fingers are shaken at them, how dare they actually live what they profess to believe in? I’m sure we all have personal beliefs that drive our actions daily. Could you imagine a society where everyone was suing everyone because they’re offended? Maybe I should sue one of my clients because they chose to go with someone who charges less! That’s right! They went with someone else because of price and I feel discriminated against!
I don’t think that somebody should be forced to do a job. The photographers didn’t stand against that couple getting married. They just didn’t want to commit. that should be respected too. This is arbitrary because clearly the gay couple is discriminating the religious views of the photographers.
I see the point of not protecting discrimination and at the same time I wonder if it would be okay to refuse doing work for a racist group such as the KKK.
@Dan – Yes, you can sue in that scenario… if you use a contract.
I think there is a problem when you mix business with anything personal, period. Heck, you’d get in trouble with the IRS if you mix your business expenses with personal, right? The lawsuit was totally avoidable. I don’t know how the initial consultation went but i have a feeling the photographer made their christian beliefs clear to the couple, which I think is a no-no if you run a business… there are many many many ways to politely turn down a prospective client without injecting race, religion, etc… and the right thing to do when you turn somebody down is to suggest a solution… refer them to someone who can do the job. That’s customer service. They leave happy and you have your beliefs intact.
While I would not refuse to participate in an interracial wedding, I reject the notion that artist should be forced to attend (much less participate in, serve at, or promote) any ceremony or event which they prefer not to, no matter what the reason.
Here’s a scenario. I tell a gay couple that I will do their wedding. Then they dump me when they find out I’m Catholic and that in my religious view I think their marriage is immoral. Can I sue them for discriminating against me based on my religion? If the law is not a double-edged sword, then it’s just arbitrary.
Do you see how refusing to photograph same-sex weddings might be the same as refusing to photograph an interracial wedding?
I don’t see how choosing to not photograph same-sex weddings is any different than boudoir photographers only shooting women. Is that sexist? I don’t think so, it is simply their business model and their choice. Religion shouldn’t have to even be a factor for this couple to be protected on the principle that they did not feel they were the right fit for the couple. I hope as photographers we can respect those who say no based on whatever reason they feel is best for their business, regardless of their religious freedom. I find the prosecution of these photographers to be true discrimination and it is apparent that this is what we are all up against.
Kari: “Clearly this couple had THEIR religious freedoms taken away. This first Amendment was founded to keep the Government out of the Church, not the Church out of the Government, A private business has the freedom to operate as they see fit ***as long as they don’t break the law,*** this should have never been an issue.”
That’s the point. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that they DID violate the law. It certainly is an issue when people are imposing their religious views on others in a manner that violates the rights of individuals to participate freely in our economy.
And no, their religious freedoms were not taken away. Here is a good test of whether your religious freedom is being threatened: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-emily-c-heath/how-to-determine-if-your-religious-liberty-is-being-threatened-in-10-questions_b_1845413.html
My wife is the photographer in the family and, though gay marriage is against our faith as Catholics, we decided that she probably would shoot gay couples. Our thought being that anytime she/we can introduce anyone to the love of Christ it’s a good thing. That said, anytime the government starts dictating matters of conscience, religious or otherwise, we’re on a very dangerous path, especially when we’re not exactly talking basic human rights here. There’s no fundamental human right to have one’s wedding photographed. Did you know that in the state of Missouri (and others) parents could give consent for a 15 year old to get married? Have any moral dilemmas there? Mom and dad said it was okay for 15 yr old Suzy to marry 35 yr old George. Can’t discriminate based on age. And what about that thing we call the Constitution? Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Seems like the state is interfering with the Huguenins’ “free exercise thereof.” Are they not being discriminated against based on their religion? Our right to freedom of religion is quickly being narrowed down to you have the right to go to any church you want and hold any beliefs you want as long as you don’t make those known publicly. Seems like maybe some animals are more equal than others.
The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791.
Clearly this couple had THEIR religious freedoms taken away. This first Amendment was founded to keep the Government out of the Church, not the Church out of the Government, A private business has the freedom to operate as they see fit as long as they don’t break the law, this should have never been an issue.
I hope this Photography Couple will counter sue and push back, if not we are on a very slippery slope in America as business owners. Who knows who may come knocking at your door next? Someone who is short, if you turn them down will you be discriminating against all short people? Can they sue you over this and take your money. Who got this money in this case, who was awarded damages?
Thanks for posting Sal……private business owners better stick together on this one!!
Interesting topic as I have a small wedding photography business and I am Christian. I always remember the scriptures that say “Judge not lest ye be judged” and “Treat others as you would want to be treated”. I will photograph same sex ceremonies when asked and have photographed many African-American weddings. I have also photographed Muslim ceremonies, though the Muslim ceremony photos are not publicly displayed at the request of the family. I genuinely enjoy people regardless of how they may differ from me.
If I’m understanding the logic, then, because Satanism is a religion, nobody (regardless of their own particular religious preference) would be allowed to decline a contract for covering a Satanic Black Mass or similar ceremony because they would be discriminating based on religion?
Also it is important to note that the Federal Civil Rights Act guarantees all people the right to “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” (https://www.legalzoom.com/us-law/equal-rights/right-refuse-service)
Note that in this Federal law, sexual orientation is not included among the protected classes. It is true that various states have implemented their own antidiscrimination laws which do include sexual orientation, but this obviously varies from state to state.
Again, I think that the hardest thing to get a grip on is that the photographers were not discriminating against the client based upon sexual orientation to begin with. They have served homosexual clients in the past under different circumstances and for different types of sessions. Their statement is that they were unwilling to participate in a CEREMONY due to a personal conviction that they were unable to support the message of the ceremony. While it is true that in New Mexico it is illegal to discriminate against PEOPLE due to their sexual orientation, there is no mandate requiring participation in (or providing services for) an event or a ceremony which one prefers to have no part in.
I am not anti gay even, as a Southern Baptist and I’m not a prude. However regardless of political or religious views or feelings one groups rights shouldn’t be sacrificed in favor of another groups right to choose. If a same sex couple wants to marry they should be allowed to. At the same time a church or business should also have the right to decline base on their beliefs. I have several gay friends and a family member who is gay and I love them all. Any of them would be sad to be turned down but would move on that is life.
Sal, Kudos to you for posting this topic. you know its gonna get a kajillion comments pushing it up in google lol 🙂
I was using broad sweeping terms to say that there are many that support and many that do not. Not to say that ALL do not support. I didn’t want to single any one religion or person out as for it or against it. Just to say that people should be able to do whatever they want. I’m more of a libertarian so I feel like the Gov. should not be involved with the marriage situation at all (straight or gay), since it is a personal contract. But as a photography business I would photograph same sex weddings no problem, and do it with the same quality and professionalism as any one else who came to me for their wedding.
John: “When you go to a lot of establishments, they usually have a sign posted that they have a right to refuse anyone for service. Why can this not be applied to this private business? They are not receiving funding from the government.”
Because we as a society have decided that we don’t like racists denying black people seats at diners, and bigots denying Mormons services, etc. And the people of New Mexico also want sexual orientation and gender identity protected as well.
If a person’s religion requires him or her to express bigotry against gay and transgendered people, I would wonder why that person belongs to that religion. There are plenty of religions that don’t require that bigotry. It comes down to one’s personal choice. And it says a lot.
As a Christian, I have approached the issue with the mindset that I will not seek out same sex marriage weddings to photograph. But my Jesus says that we are to live everyone regardless of their skin color, orientation or other “labels”. I gave very good friends who are in a same sex relationship and they are some of the most fun people I know. They also know that I’m Christian & don’t agree with their decision but that is the point it’s their decision and we are to love people in all walks of life.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
I’m glad that you guys brought this up 😉
When you go to a lot of establishments, they usually have a sign posted that they have a right to refuse anyone for service. Why can this not be applied to this private business? They are not receiving funding from the government.
You can turn down business based on any reason… so why not just turn it down quietly, don’t state the reason or just mention scheduling conflict…what is the client going to do? Get the court to force you to show your schedule and then try to equate it to sexual orientation discrimination? Personally I would have taken the job… like it or not… they are paying clients… lot’s of business ‘work’ for gays, do business with ethnic groups and/or other groups that are not aligned with the business ownership beliefs.
It is easy to look at the situation and immediately think that the Huguenins refused to serve these particular clients because of their sexual orientation. However, this is not necessarily the case. This quote may have been what you were alluding to in the third paragraph.
“The message a same-sex commitment ceremony communicates is not one I believe.” – Elaine Huguenin
It was the ceremony itself which the Huguenins chose not to participate in or support, not the client because of their sexual orientation.
Before you dismiss this distinction as inconsequential semantics, consider that the Huguenins have photographed homosexual clients in the past. Theirs is not a “no gays allowed” policy, but a personal decision to not participate in a ceremony that they cannot in good conscience support.
• Should a staunch PETA supporter be compelled to provide a fashion shoot for a fur and leather designer upon request?
• Should a Christian be compelled to document a local Satanic group’s Black Mass upon request?
• Should an African American be compelled to provide photography services for a KKK Initiation Ceremony upon request?
Sal, you have stated before that you have chosen not to work with various clients in the past. If I’m not mistaken, some of these choices may have even been made after signing a contract with the client. You have bowed out of these contracts or declined the opportunities for various reasons, some perhaps as benign as personality differences. Imagine how livid you would be if you were told that you no longer had the option to choose at will which potential clients you would work with.
The precedent set here should be of grave concern to all professional photographers, regardless of religious preference (or absence thereof). The message of the court is that you can be compelled under penalty of law to participate in and photograph something that goes against even your deepest held beliefs. As artists, the idea that any of us could lose the ability to choose who or what to photograph under any circumstance should be legitimately frightening.
Bryan – you are 100% correct. We have turned down weddings for many reasons. HOWEVER. According to the law, you can not turn down a wedding because of religion, sex, race, handicap, etc this becomes discrimination. That’s the difference.
Not all Christians are opposed to same sex marriage – some, in fact a good many, embrace it and welcome all people with open arms. Please be careful when using such broad and sweeping terms.
As a photographer in NJ who is a fundamental Christian I have mulled this topic over in my mind. I have concluded that if same sex couples want to get married, who cares, let them get married. The only problem I see is when the government steps in and forces religions to comply and go against their faith to marry the couple. There are plenty of supportive people and places out there that would be happy to marry same sex couples and I wouldn’t have a problem photographing them. It’s good for business. Now if they would like to join my religion then that’s a different topic and I think that’s where the gov. will be over reaching. Religions should be free to teach their faith and traditions, as long as they aren’t going around telling people they have to change for the ‘good of society’, or any other reason. The only time people should be expected to change is if they are interested in a certain religion and want to join. Then if the religion or faith is that important to them they will conform to the faith. So all that to say, let them get married.
Interesting topic! I would turn down a gay wedding because I don’t think I would be comfortable and I strongly believe for an event as important and personal as a wedding both the couple and photographer should be comfortable. However, I would have no difficulty hiring a gay person as a second shooter!
When you open your door as a business, you play by a different set of rules, as you should. Discrimination should not be part of a business plan, and it matters not what that discrimination looks like. Where it gets blurry, as an artist in particular, is how do you specialize if you are afraid that someone will sue you for discrimination because you are not the right photographer for them? You have to be very careful in how you approach this. I do agree that if I were in the couple’s shoes, I wouldn’t want that photographer anyway…however, they deserved the right to make that choice. I wouldn’t want to patronize a business with discriminatory beliefs, but I should have the right to decide that, it should not be the right of a business owner to make that decision for me.
“Now, I will say, I am also surprised that a case was filed by Willock. I get it. They were denied service and that’s not ok, but would you really want someone participating in your day that just doesn’t believe in the very marriage you are asking them to document? Especially a photographer.”
The point was not to force someone to participate who was not willing. The complaint was filed after the wedding, in all likelihood. The point was to address a violation of the law, and hopefully, set a precedent for other people.
It should not be a surprise when someone takes a personal risk and does something selfless for other people — but too often it is.