Photographer Challenged for Denying Services to Lesbian Couple
February 28th, 2008
According to various anti-gay media including the Washington Times, Elaine Huguenin, a photographer in Albuquerque was brought before the New Mexico Human Rights Commission due to her denial of services to a lesbian couple. She is defended by Alliance Defense Fund, an anti-gay legal ministry.
When Elaine Huguenin of Albuquerque, N.M., declined in September 2006 an e-mail request from a lesbian couple to photograph their ceremony, one of the lesbians responded by lodging a human rights complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Division, the state agency charged with enforcing state anti-discrimination laws and sending cases to the commission to be adjudicated.
Because anti-gay media is notoriously prone to “error”, I am hesitant to assume that the facts are as stated in the Times, LifeSite, or the other propaganda arms of the anti-gay industry.
However, according to Francie D. Cordova, New Mexico Labor Relations Division Director, here are the bare facts of the case:
A Hearing Office conducted an administrative hearing whereby both the photographer and the complaining party were represented by attorneys. What occurred was a due process hearing and not an interrogation. The case was based on a denial of public accommodation. The Commission has not yet considered the case as the hearing officer has not rendered a recommendation.
I am not privy to any behind-the-scenes communication that led to the complaint. So we do not know what was said by Mrs. Huguenin or by Vanessa Willock, the complaintant.
But this case bothers me.
On one hand, I don’t think that denying services to individuals based on characteristics such as race, gender, orientation, or religion are admirable or have any basis in Christian faith (the reason purported to be behind Huguenin’s denial of service). I do believe that gay persons should be protected from discrimination in the public square.
One should not have the privelege – or so I believe – to bar the door of a restaurant, a barber shop, a grocery store, or a lunch counter due to bigotry or bias.
On the other hand, the type of services provided by Elane Photography require the personal services of Elaine Huguenin herself, at a specified time and place, participating in a ceremony that Ms. Huguenin finds offensive. This is not simply providing services to a gay person, among many persons, but rather it is imposing on Huguenin a level of discomfort that seems an autocratic interference in private business rather than a protection of gay citizens.
And I find the story to be a sad reflection on our society.
Elaine’s photography is, to my untrained eye, quite good. I can see why Ms. Willock would select her for the ceremony.
But what troubles me is that Christianity, as a whole, has become so hostile to gay people that it seems reasonable that faith would be given as a reason for not providing services. Would divorce, pre-marital sex, incompatible faith-affiliations, or a lack of religious adherence be any cause for denying service by Elane Photography? I very much doubt it.
And I am also troubled by an attitude that is inflexible of the sensitivities of others. Would it have been so difficult for Ms. Willock to choose someone else and let Huguenin and her biases alone? Does every slight require punishment?
I will be following this story and will report when more is known.