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Christian Photographer Fined for Refusing Gay Wedding

Posted: 15 Apr 2008 02:02 PM CDT

Las Cruces Sun-News:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.óA professional photographer who refused to take pictures of a gay coupleís commitment ceremony because of her religious beliefs violated New Mexico discrimination law, a human rights panel ruled.Vanessa Willock filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission in 2006, contending that Albuquerque photographer Elaine Huguenin told her she photographed only traditional marriages. Huguenin and her husband, Jon, own Elane Photography.

The commissionís one-page ruling Wednesday said Elane Photography violated the state Human Rights Act by discriminating against Willock on the basis of sexual orientation, and should pay $6,637 for Willockís attorneyís fees and costs.

Willock, through her attorney, said in an e-mail that she was pleased by the finding.

As a Christian, my priority is to promote the Gospel and Godís offer of salvation to the world (and there are some other personal, private priorities, too). Unlike many ďconservative ChristiansĒ I donít see how actively and adamantly keeping those who live homosexually from certain benefits in life serves that purpose. Iím definitely not saying we ought to bless gay unions as God-intended marriages, but we ought to recognize the futility of trying to force people to obey a God they donít know yet.

On the other hand, as an American and (I think) a logical person, I believe we ought to be free to live by and speak out of our convictions so long as those convictions do no harm. If someone doesnít want your business, then thatís their business.

According to gay blogger Box Turtle Bulletin, the emails from the photographer which preceded the lawsuit went as follows:

Hello Vanessa,
As a company, we photograph traditional weddings, engagements, seniors, and several other things such as political photographs and singerís portfolios.

And when asked to clarify:

Hello Vanessa,
Sorry if our last response was a confusing one. Yes, you are correct in saying we do not photograph same-sex weddings, but again, thanks for checking out our site!
Have a great day.

Later that year Willockís partner allegedly contacted Elane Photography again, this time posing as a different customer and without specifying the genders of the couple. When the photographers sought to follow up, Willock lawyered up.

While I donít really know if I would make the same decision as the photographers in this situation, I donít believe the lesbian couple had a legitimate legal case and I certainly donít agree with the decision.

These ladies werenít exposed to abuse or humiliation. Nothing was taken from them and no injury was done. And with foreknowledge that some will vehemently disagree, I believe they were not denied access to a service because of who they are; I donít think about homosexuality that way.

From all public accounts, Elane Photography politely declined an invitation to profit from something that was in conflict with their spiritual beliefs (mind you, without saying it was due to religion or other). And Willock and her partner went after them.

Both sides of this ongoing debate have crossed the line in harmful ways. It harms the Gospel when Christians seek to take jobs, housing, etc. from gay-identified people. It harms freedom when gay activists seek to punish others for their beliefs.

Tags: Activism, Gay, gay marriage, Homosexuality, Human Rights, Politics