The New Mexico Human Rights Act, Gay-Wedding Photographers, and Anti-Discrimination Laws

The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that an event photographer who refused to photograph a gay wedding has violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

Those who balk at anti-discrimination laws tend to feel that their freedom of association, or speech, or religion, or something else is in jeopardy when courts issue these rulings. There is always tension when one’s rights butt up against the rights of another. Nevertheless, courts have long accepted the idea that states can pass and enforce anti-discrimination laws without infringing on business owners’ rights.

Rather than substitute my explanation for the well-argued conclusion of the court, I give you Justice Bosson’s concurrence:

Though the rule of law requires it, the result is sobering. It will no doubt leave a tangible mark on the Huguenins and others of similar views.

On a larger scale, this case provokes reflection on what this nation is all about, its promise of fairness, liberty, equality of opportunity, and justice. At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less. The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.

In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.
Elane Photography, LLC v. Vanessa Willock via The Wall Street Journal

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