Photography business cannot discriminate against same-sex couples

Posted on August 22nd, 2013 by Joseph William Singer.
Categories: Antidiscrimination law, Consumer protection, Religious freedom.

The Supreme Court of New Mexico has held that the state public accommodations law applies to a photography business that offers its services to the public. Because that law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, the business could not lawfully refuse to take pictures at a same-sex commitment ceremony because of the owner’s religious beliefs. Elane Photography v Willock, — P.3d — (N.M. 2013). The state public accommodations law does not violate the owner’s free speech rights since professions involving creativity or expression are not exempt from those laws. The court explained that “Elane Photography believes that because it is a photography business, it cannot be subject to public accommodation laws. The reality is that because it is a public accommodation, its provision of services can be regulated, even though those services include artistic and creative work. Nor did the owner’s religious beliefs offer a reason to engage in discriminatory conduct. “Under established law, the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes),” the court explained, citing Emp’t Div., Dep’t of Human Res. of Or. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 879 (1990) .

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