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Elane Photography Follow-up

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin

Timothy Kincaid

December 19th, 2009

canon.jpgIn February 2008, Elane Photography was brought before the New Mexico Human Rights Commission because it refused to photograph the commitment ceremony of Vanessa Willock and her partner. Elane Photography, which consists of Elaine Huguenin and her husband, was found by the commission to have discriminated against Willock on the basis of sexual orientation, and was ordered to pay $6,637 for Willock’s attorney’s fees and costs.

Elane appealed. But this week a District Court Judge upheld that decision.

My sympathies are with Elaine Huguenin. I’ve read the correspondence between the two, and I’ve heard her interviewed. Huguenin is not a hater or a Culture Warrior. She’s just some woman who didn’t feel comfortable photographing an event that clashed with her belief system.

Where some might see Elaine, her views, and her opinions as an enemy that must be vanquished, I just see some woman being forced by the government to work where and when she doesn’t want to work. And I find that deeply troubling.

Some may see a distinction between Elaine, the person, and Elane, the business. But as one who works in the business world, I know that the distinction is only one of form and not of function. Bankruptcy law, tort, insurance, and practicality are such that those who offer their services for a living, even sole practitioners, need to have a corporate structure. People like Elaine Huguenin are, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable from their business and any restrictions placed on their company serve only as restrictions on them individually.

Most readers know that I am not wedded to non-discrimination policies to begin with. While I recognize that they were a valuable tool at breaking through institutionalized bigotries, especially racial bigotries, I am sympathetic to the notion that racists, homophobes, xenophobes, and bigots of all stripes have a right to their own beliefs, however abhorrent I may find them to be. And while I insist that any non-discrimination policies must include my community if they include any affected communities, I wonder if social pressure could not at this time play a stronger and more principled role than governmental coercion.

But whether or not you believe that non-discrimination policies should be in place, surely you’ll agree that this was never what we intended?

Americans cherish individuality above almost all else. And gay people know more than anyone that coercion to conform to the expectations of government is by its nature oppressive and prone to abuse. Surely it has never been our desire to force those who don’t like us to perform like puppets on a string?

The court has spoken. The law was broken. Elane Photography is not entitled to refuse to photograph same-sex commitment ceremonies.

And that is a tragedy.

I believe it is time for New Mexico to change its law. A decent and reasonable compromise would be to follow the lead of many other states – and, indeed, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – the exceptions for for employment and limit the non-discrimination requirements to businesses with 15 or more employees.

Let Elane Photography limit its services to only heterosexual weddings, or only Catholic Weddings, or only weddings between persons of the same race. This is no hardship on us. Elaine Huguenin is not solely responsible for our happiness. Even in Albuquerque there are plenty of other choices.

And ultimately what kind of freedom will we have won to live our lives as we see best if it costs the freedom of others to do the same?

Comments

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Candace
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I agree completely. There is no end to pain and hardship when instead of sharing a common humanity, we are reduced to “sides” in a “culture war.”

John
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy,

I disagree. Making exceptions to the anti-discrimination laws for unusual cases like this will likely to lead to more problems than it solves. Who is excused from the law? Some physicians have less than 15 employees, but may be the only hand surgeon, neurosurgeon or other specialist in their field in their county.

Instead of bending over backwards to make exceptions for this one business (how many others in New Mexico are making similar claims to Elaine?) Elaine should make arrangements to be compliant with the law. Either identify an employee who doesn’t care abour the race, religion or sexual orientation of the client, or make arrangements with a partner photography studio to cover these situations.

Trying to carve out exceptions for Elaine will likely lead to weakening of protections for others. In a state like New Mexico, the most likely group to suffer from changes to the law would probably be Hispanics.

Ben in Oakland
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

Jim:

I have had a lot of questions on this. I’m very much in the middle. I’m a wedding photographer myself. And from my experience, the couple that sued I suspect was trouble from the start. And astute photographer learns to recognize them. Elaine didn’t. Likewise, an astute event photographer knows that the only face a client should ever see is friendly, pleasant, polite, and caring, no matter what you might feel about it. Telling people that you don’t approve of them or their lifestyle (I’m using the word consciously here) is not a way to make them happy. so on top of everything else, Elaine was rude.

As a wedding photographer, I can tell you there are plenty of people whose weddings I do not want to shoot. I would be very foolish to tell them why. You just say you’re booked, and you refer them on, if you can.. Not that I would do so for illegal reasons, but because I flat out don’t like them, or think they will be trouble, or difficult to deal with. I would even shoot a Mormon wedding– though at this point, I would probably donate the money to marriage equality in honor of their wedding and let them know that I did.

Nevertheless, there is something else to consider here. The wedding photographer in New Mexico violated a law that said that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal. The same law that protects blacks, whites, and even Christians.

As a Jew, I reject the Christian story, and as a thinking human being, I reject Biblical morality. This bothers the religious beliefs of no one but the most rabid fundamentalist, nor would any but the most clueless dare say so in public for fear of rightly being called a religious bigot. But let me say that I’m gay and reject just this tiniest part of conservative Christian belief, and suddenly, religious beliefs are offended, the people who hold them are “persecuted”. What is the difference?

Does Elaine do Jewish weddings or Hindu weddings? Theoretically, if she does not, she could cite her religious beliefs as the basis for her opposition. Why this different?

It amazes me that religions disagree about the nature of God, and their history is written in blood. But gay people–well, they finally have it right. So, to say that she is entitled to reject these women as clients because they are gay, but not entitled to because they are Jews, represents a logical inconsistency.

The word bigotry comes to mind, a bigotry that any gay person knows exists. Just because it is your religious belief and it is about gay people, doesn’t make it right.

Jason D
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I look at it this way:

A racist in this situation, or a relgious bigot would not be likely to openly say –

“I don’t work with blacks”

“I don’t work with Jews”

They would’ve been smart enough to realize that while they may have those thoughts, those “firmly heald” beliefs, and certainly a right to speak as they please, and to work with whoever they please —- expressing things in those words would be rude and socially unacceptable.

But Elaine felt empowered by her beliefs to “stand up” and say she would not work with gay people.

One of the ways in which we defeat bigotry is by making it no longer acceptable to air ones bigoted views openly, proudly, publicly, and (to some degree) privately.

There exist racists today, and there will probably always be racists. But they are fewer in number because their message is unacceptable in the public square. They gain no ground because they cannot get an audience.

I see this no differently than the Mom and Pop diner that was “forced” after desegregation to serve “coloreds”.

andrew
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

Normally, I’m a conservative voice in these threads, but today, I couldn’t disagree more.

Other posts have already included my initial thoughts — specifically other professions (e.g. physicians) that are more critical, or protection of other groups (e.g. religion, race, etc.) — refusal to perform an interracial marriage recently put a man on the 6pm national news and cost him his job… so we know that if you substitute “black” for “gay”, the reaction in legal, media, and watercooler circles is outrage.

By accepting less, gays would put themselves at the back of the bus voluntarily, and accept that we are lesser beings. Race and religion cannot be discriminated against, but sexual orientation can? Great, now we’ve provided a hierarchy of rights, based arbitrarily on the comfort of the majority. Doesn’t sound very American to me.

Business is business, not private expression (like, for example, art), although photography arguably comes close to straddling that particular boundary.

If Elane doesn’t want to photograph gay weddings, then perhaps she shouldn’t be a wedding photographer, but a different kind of photographer, or an artist. Or she could subcontract to a photographer who was willing to work the event. Or maybe she should find some reason she cannot work the week of that wedding — I can hardly imagine a couple changing the date of their ceremony to try to tack her down and force things.

Attempting to stand on principle and explicitly and very publicly hanging a “no gays allowed” sign in front of her business — and make no mistake, by taking this issue head-on and then fighting it in court, that’s exactly what Elane had in mind — is not only wrong on the basis of non-discrimination, but it sends shockwaves through the local business community that communicate that this kind of behavior is appropriate, and that if you engage in it, you’ll have a group of allies with the same policy. Moreover, I can’t tell you how often I see business adopt policies that their competitors have engaged in because it allows them to avoid costly or controversial practices, and since “everyone else has the same practice”, they don’t have to take any responsibility for it.

This isn’t just about one little photographer, it’s about how we, as a society, apply rules to the neutral space of the common market, and it’s about whether or not we as gays are willing to accept second class status because we don’t want to offend others.

Désirée
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

Ï agree with Timothy 100% here. This is a case of the government effectively forcing a woman to work for some one she doesn’t wish to work for or with. The 1st Amendment Freedom of Association has to include the freedom *not* to associate with someone (for any reason) for it to have any validity or meaning. In this case, the New Mexico court was wrong. The couple who sued were wrong as well, They gained nothing but animosity for gays and furthering the belief that we are trying to force ourselves on others. It was the wrong tack and I hope it can overturned.

TampaZeke
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

Why on earth ANY gay person would want to give their hard earned money to an anti-gay person when other options are available is beyond me.

That seems to be the bigger question in my mind.

andrew
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

Desiree, I admire your libertarian streak here, and I too regret that it came down to this — it’s not good for anyone here, including the couple, and you’re right that it will lead to animosity in some quarters.

Unfortunately, if the courts saw things your way, we’d see the wholesale unravelling of the kinds of laws that prevent restaurants from hanging signs that say “No Blacks Allowed” or putting in “Colored” bathrooms.

I’m no fan of the nanny society, but too I’m not wild about the tyranny of the majority. Elane had a lot of other ways to go about avoiding this gig that would have avoided a suit. She was making point of being publicly and prominently anti-gay, and then demanding that the government put its seal of approval on her behavior.

Burr
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I guess it boils down to how critical the situation is. Obviously physicians shouldn’t get away with such dereliction of duty, but wedding photographers?

andrew
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

Tampa — yeah, part of me wonders whether what we really have here is a couple looking for a fight and a photographer happy to oblige.

That’s separate from the questions of legality, but I don’t think anyone had a very good day here.

RebLaw
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I can’t help but wonder what sane couple planning a wedding has time/energy to even think about suing anyone?
I got married in August, and how anyone has time to be angry for long enough to contact a lawyer over something like a photographer bailing out is beyond me. Why the photographer didn’t just say “a family emergency came up for that date” is also beyond me.

David
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I think that the message from “Shari” on the previous points proves why the district court’s decision was correct.

Elaine felt free to treat one group of people with contempt, for reasons Shari articulates forthrightly articulates.

Elaine, as business owner, had a responsibility to know, understand, and comply wit the business laws in New Mexico, but chose to ignore those laws when the potential customer was two lesbians.

“BenYachov” posts also make a statement – he equated same-sex marriage to the exteme example of the KKK. Such a comparison is not only irrational, it is deragory and abusive. The Klan has a history that includes murdering human beings and terrorizing entire communities. He equated homosexuality with an extreme hate group.

Shari and Ben make it clear that the core issue in this is the premise that GLBTQ people are so repulsive other people cannot be expected to be polite and professional for a couple of hours even though they are getting paid at a rate they determine.

That premise in its broadest form is the foundation for the systemic discrimination GLBTQ people experience.

Ray
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I recall when my husband needed open-heart surgery and the doctor recoiled so obviously when he understood this was a gay man. I don’t like permitting religious exclusion as a precedent for that reason. I’d be a widow today if not for the law. Once you permit someone a pass, an entire army of others is standing ready to claim that same right.

The signs one can still see in some places of business say, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” And they did and they still try to.

I respectfully disagree.

Elliot in NY
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I feel for Elane, but only for the fact that she feels so uncomfortable with homosexuality that she must abandon her sense of professionality.

Otherwise, I have no more sympathy with her than with a restaurant owner that has a large “Whites Only!” sign above the entrance.

grantdale
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

Tomothy: limit the non-discrimination requirements to businesses with 15 or more employees.

Firstly, why 15 or any number? (I know you probably aren’t wedded to the number Timothy, just asking.)

Secondly, that would exclude 30% of working people in New Mexico. Worse, you are actually talking about some 75% of business establishments.*

Are you really suggesting that three-quarters of New Mexico business establishments should be excluded from anti-discrimination requirements?

(In some sectors it is rare to have over 15 employees, and a <15 rule would effectively exclude that entire sector from anti-discrimination requirements. Local doctors, pharmacies, photographers, tradespeople…)

Look… I too reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. From time to time I do say no, although I've never done it for discriminatory reasons (as best I can tell "Hoo boy, they would be a pain in the a$$ client!" is not a protected category.)

But I've also never done it rudely, or in a way intended to demean someone. You simply apologise for being unavailable in the time-frame, or apologise for not having the all the necessary skills on reflection. Or something. Anything. The dog ate your software. You offer an alternative if you know of one.

In all honestly I doubt the person in question would be regarded with any sympathy if she'd declared blacks were smelly or Jews were greedy and that therefore she never worked for them.

All three involved strike me as trouble-makers from the get-go. Perhaps they should have all simply been locked in a room for an hour with rubber bats.

The worse possible outcome? Hmm, she actually agreed to do the work on Their Very Special Day(r)… and made sure every photo was unflattering. Not to the point of professional negligence, of course, but shots looking up people's noses and some "Wow, my bum DID look big in that!" photos for good measure. I'm sure Ben from Oakland could run out a list for us :)

———————
Sorry, you'll need to do some jiggery-pokery (adding in the non-employee businesses for one) but it only takes a minute or two. I think these are the most recent tables

http://www.census.gov/epcd/susb/latest/nm/NM–.HTM#table0

Evan
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

OH lord.

Did I accidentally stumble on to GayPatriot?

If so, my mistake.

It is Elaine’s responsibility to know the laws of the state where she lives if she wants to run a business there.

Period.

This is not infringing upon Elaine’s right to practice her chosen religion. Her chosen religion is private. Her photography business is public. Her “freedom” has not been infringed, unless we’re using some ridiculous meaningless definition of “freedom,” the way conservatives use it these days.

And yes, this is what we intended, just like this is what was intended when nondiscrimination laws were passed to protect black people and Christians.

Elaine is not being “forced by the government” to do anything except abide by the laws of her state when conducting business. Oh, THE TERROR!

I could say more, but I already responded to this issue, so if you want to read what I had to say about it, click my name.

Evan
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I tried to make a comment, but it didn’t seem to go through, so take two:

Oh lord.

Did I accidentally stumble on to GayPatriot?

If so, my mistake.

It is Elaine’s responsibility to know the laws of the state where she lives if she wants to run a business there.

Period.

This is not infringing upon Elaine’s right to practice her chosen religion. Her chosen religion is private. Her photography business is public. Her “freedom” has not been infringed, unless we’re using some ridiculous meaningless definition of “freedom,” the way conservatives use it these days.

And yes, this is what we intended, just like this is what was intended when nondiscrimination laws were passed to protect black people and Christians.

Elaine is not being “forced by the government” to do anything except abide by the laws of her state when conducting business. Oh, THE TERROR!

I could say more, but I already responded to this issue, so if you want to read what I had to say about it, click my name and scroll down or go to the TWO blog, and go to page two or so.

Emily K
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

On the surface, I agree with Timothy. But there might be other factors at play, and being a “radical centrist,” I feel duty-bound to look at them.

Jason D brought up poignant comparisons to racists and bigots refusing “to work with Blacks” or “work with Jews” because of “steadfastly held beliefs.” Making such “beliefs” unacceptable in the business world helps business. “Whites Only” signs are looked down upon by the majority of “decent folk” but not long ago it was the “decent folk” that looked down. And such businesses get much less sympathy – and probably less business, ultimately.

And then there are the individuals involved.

andrew points out that a suit could be avoided by someone not going out of their way to make an anti-gay point. Ben in Oakland wonders if Elane would make a point to refuse service to other people that go against her moral grain – Hindus, Jews – maybe divorcées, or doctors that provide or support abortion?

RebLaw wonders what kind of couple has the time and money to spend suing someone when they have a wedding to plan – and a new life together to embark upon. I also wonder these things.

I think a case can be made for refusing services to hate groups like the KKK – provided one is a private business, as Elane is.

Emily K
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I meant to say in my second that it used to be “decent folk” who looked down upon those stores that DIDN’T have a “whites only” sign and that “pandered” to Black people (by treating them as equals).

Bruce Garrett
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I was driving toward Monument Valley and stopped at a small restaurant just outside of Mexican Hat. Couldn’t have been much of a staff there, but it was the nicest seeming place in a very small town, so I checked in for something to eat. I noticed a sign above the bar…

We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone

Well that’s something I am old enough to remember from the days when race discrimination wasn’t merely legal, but a commonplace fact of life. And I reflexively wondered what the heck they were worried about here in the middle of this desert, as I hadn’t seen a single solitary black face on my trip west since St. Louis.

It wasn’t until I was on my way, and saw the sign just down the road a wee bit notifying me I’d just entered the Navajo reservation, that I realized what the problem was. Ah right…not Black…Red…

They say good fences make good neighbors, but you can’t make a nation out of fences. As a matter of fact, at one point in my life I was trying to make a living as a freelance photographer myself, and I did wedding photography, though that was not my favorite form of photography to do. I wanted to be a photojournalist. But I made more money doing weddings.

And I’ll tell you this…were I do go back to it now, and a couple of prize bigots came to me for their wedding photos I would take their money, and give them the same care I’d give any other client. First of all, business is business. If you’re going to take things personally you probably won’t make it long self employed. But there is also this: if they were willing to let me do their wedding photos, even knowing that I am a gay man (and I’d be sure to tell them…probably throw in a few same-sex wedding shots in the examples of my work for them to see…), then I’d have to consider that progress. And I would take care to show them through my work, that I know what it is to be in love, and how sacred that status is. Maybe it leaves them with something to chew on.

She could have shown that couple that loving the sinner wasn’t just pablum. She could have left them with some warmer feelings about Christianity then they perhaps had. And if not that, treated them as fellow Americans at least. But no. She had to dig the cleft separating us a little bit deeper. And this is why we have anti-discrimination laws. A person’s home is their castle and a person’s church their sanctuary, but the marketplace had better be everyone’s. You can’t make a nation out of fences.

Evan
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

*Standing ovation for Bruce*

Ben Mathis
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

I had some angry disagreements to post, but everyone else has argued perfectly what I wanted to say, especially Bruce. So just +1 to those in disagreement to the OP.

hb
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Most of the above comments have covered my thoughts on the subject, which I see as a sad one.

Why on earth, didn’t Elaine just say they were booked/unavailable? Problem solved.

You say, Tim, that she is not a hater. Does that really matter if she is acting hatefully? In working on the ‘No on 1′ campaign in Maine, I came across a lot of people who really, truly had no personal animosity towards gays, and who were also incapable of seeing their behavior for what it was. They had zero empathy, but couldn’t even see that they didn’t. It wasn’t willful, it was just… not there.

A lot of these people felt that because they believed that God said so, it was, and should be, fine with everyone. They are incapable of seeing things from the perspective of people who don’t believe in God, or understand his word differently.

It seems to me that Elaine felt she had a “duty” to voice her objection to the couple. That’s her privilege. But it seems to me that if she felt she really had to do that, then she could have apologized, and offered to find them someone who would be better at capturing the joy of the occasion. Thing is, she wasn’t sorry, she was “right”, so no apology of concession needed to be made.

She may be a wonderful person in all other ways, but she is totally blind in some areas, and I think that yes, people need to be made to see.

On the “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” thing, I had to laugh, as I see that from a different, limited, local perspective. I can’t imagine refusing service to someone based on race, religion, orientation, etc, etc, it’s behavior that makes me invite some customers to leave the store. With my boss’s full approval, I might add. Our store has zero tolerance for bad behavior, and the manager has made it clear to us that none of us is expected to put up with rude or abusive behavior from customers. Being black, red, white, yellow, or rainbow won’t get you kicked out of our store, being a jerk will.

Burr
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

I always thought that referred to behavior. Shows how naive I am I suppose. :)

Rob
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

I echo much of what’s been said. I’d also like to note that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only has the 15 employee coverage limit for Title VII (its employment discrimination portion), Title II which covers public accommodations has no such employee coverage limit. As long as you operate for the public, you’re prohibited from discriminating in providing services.

Compelled expression and the New Mexico photographer case
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

[...] prohibiting “discrimination” against customers based on their political beliefs. More: Timothy Kincaid, Box Turtle Bulletin (”time for New Mexico to change its law. …ultimately what kind of freedom will we have [...]

Priya Lynn
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy said “My sympathies are with Elaine Huguenin. I’ve read the correspondence between the two, and I’ve heard her interviewed. Huguenin is not a hater or a Culture Warrior. She’s just some woman who didn’t feel comfortable photographing an event that clashed with her belief system.”.

No, she most certainly is a hater and a culture warrior. As I’ve said on a number of occaisions, and you’ve agreed with me, religion is an excuse for people to be anti-gay, they’re really motivated by the idea that gays are icky. This has nothing to do with religion.

Timothy said “I am sympathetic to the notion that racists, homophobes, xenophobes, and bigots of all stripes have a right to their own beliefs”.

No one is denying Elane or any other bigot their beliefs. That persistant mischaracterization of the facts in such situations is a persistant annoyance to me. She is 100% free to have whatever beliefs she wants but she is not free to always put those beliefs in effect. She’s entitled to believe gays should be put to death, but she most certainly isn’t entitled to act on that, this is the same situation.

Desiree said “Ï agree with Timothy 100% here. This is a case of the government effectively forcing a woman to work for some one she doesn’t wish to work for or with. The 1st Amendment Freedom of Association has to include the freedom *not* to associate with someone (for any reason)”.

People bring up the right to freedom of association like she’s being forced to have gay people over for a dinner party and have them as friends – she most certainly is not. Just as the government forces people in business to serve blacks they rightfully should force people to serve gays. If you make your living off of the public you have an obligation to serve all of the public – no way should you be allowed to pick and choose.

Someone suggested that gays should just accept this discrimination and go find another service provider. That pollyannna attitude has been shown in the past to be unworkable. Back in the time of Jim Crow laws blacks were often faced with the situation where they couldn’t find anyone willing to serve them. If we accept that one business has the right not serve people they don’t like we open up the possiblity that many or most businesses might take the same approach and find service difficult or impossible to get altogether. No way should we open the door to that.

Jarred
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

On the “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” thing, I had to laugh, as I see that from a different, limited, local perspective. I can’t imagine refusing service to someone based on race, religion, orientation, etc, etc, it’s behavior that makes me invite some customers to leave the store. With my boss’s full approval, I might add. Our store has zero tolerance for bad behavior, and the manager has made it clear to us that none of us is expected to put up with rude or abusive behavior from customers. Being black, red, white, yellow, or rainbow won’t get you kicked out of our store, being a jerk will.

In some locales, that’s exactly what the “right to refuse service signs” are all about. According to a local shopkeeper, such a sign is required by New York State law. Without such a sign posted, she would not be legally permitted to ask an unruly person to leave when they were disrupting her business or call the police if they refused to leave.

Patriot Henry
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Slavery is wrong.

“No way should we open the door to that.”

The door to freedom? Oh no, can’t have that.

“If you make your living off of the public you have an obligation to serve all of the public – no way should you be allowed to pick and choose.”

The right to refuse service is an essential part of business and liberty. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to pick and choose who they do business with?

“Just as the government forces people in business to serve blacks they rightfully should force people to serve gays. ”

Since when is forcing people to enter into contracts they don’t want to enter into “right”? Perhaps the govt in New Mexico should just “rightfully force” gay people to enter into straight marriages?

Martin
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

When Elane advertised her business to the public, she agreed to serve the public in accordance with the laws of the state of New Mexico.

If she truly feels it necessary to limit her services to only those occasions that conform to her religious beliefs, surely there is some way that she could have limited accomplished that legally (perhaps by working closely with churches or other organizations that are in line with her beliefs and taking jobs “by referral only”).

I also wonder how strictly Elane vetted other clients to ensure that the conformed to her religious beliefs. I find it hard to believe that gay marriage is the ONLY thing her religion prohibits.

Priya Lynn
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Henry, there is no such thing as absolute freedom. Living in a society requires that you make concessions to get along with everyone else. You don’t like the inevitable restrictions on your freedoms that comes with living in harmony with others then buy an island in international waters, set up your own country and make your own rules for living entirely by yourself.

Regan DuCasse
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Applause for Bruce! I have to agree with him, and Priya…and Tim, I respectfully disagree for the aforementioned reasons of the others.

We have here, a person with a business open to the public, but a private agenda no one could possibly know about on approach of her business.

And her form of discrimination is apparently limited ONLY to gay people, regardless of how many OTHER religious objections are fit for the same profiling.

When gay people know that such a switch is only turned on against gay people and no others, then it IS time to call out that business on the basis of what the state’s anti discrimination laws are.
Elane didn’t have any signs posted” straight people served only.

Nobody does who has a public business and we all know why.
It’s not the fault of gay folks if they don’t know who would object to having their business and who won’t.
But the price of doing a public business has requirements of non discrimination law.
It should be apparent to Elane that since she can’t and doesn’t discriminate CONSISTENTLY, the point is she shouldn’t at all.

Jason D
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

I find it bizarre and a little disturbing that several commentators have cast aspirations on the couple that they were “looking for a fight”.

No, they were looking for a photographer, what they got was a fight.

This strikes me as quite similar to the woman in the sexy outfit who gets raped and then gets told “she was asking for it by wearing that dress.”

While the situations are not similar, this knee-jerk reaction of “you were looking for trouble” is the same.

Aren’t gays secretly going into the military “looking for trouble”, too? Where’s the posters casting aspirations on Dan Choi saying “he was looking for a fight”??

What about the gay kind who wears a pride shirt, necklace, or bracelet into school — is he looking for a fight, too? Shall we just look the other way and call him a “mischeif maker”.

What about our marches, our petitions, our drive for equality — one could say the entire gay community is nothing but a bunch of troublemakers looking for a fight.

One could even point the finger squarely at BTB itself over this Uganda Kill Gays Bill. At least the lesbians in New Mexico were fighting a local battle in their own country. One could say that BTB is “looking for a fight” and poking their noses “where they don’t belong” by posting article after article critical of the developments in Uganda.

I think one of the positives, one the things that proves we’re on the right side of history with our fight for equality is that we have compassion for our enemies. Thing is, they really don’t have a lot of compassion for us. They oppose even the simplest, smallest amount of dignity, security, and freedom that we give our life’s blood for.

Change hurts. It really is quite traumatic and seemingly unfair to be a bigot in today’s world. To have your worldview challenged and to have the status quo, the ideals you take for granted questioned and altered before your very eyes. Don’t let your sympathy cloud your sense of civil justice. Don’t let one of our greatest strengths be a weakness.

Elaine threw down the gauntlet. Simply put. I cannot say I regret that Willock decided to pick it up. We did not start this culture war, and it must be fought on many fronts. Critique helps us grow, gossiping about other people’s motives, our own allies, puts us just that much farther from our goals.

Désirée
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

sorry, none of Priya’s or anyone elses’ arguments have swayed me. This about force pure and simple. It is the same as if the government told you you *had* to work at Walmart and you have no choice otherwise you are discriminating against them. Elane in this case is the *employee* and she by all rights gets to pick and choose who she works for just as the rest of us do. Force is never the proper response.

What I find even more absurd is the idea that she could have avoided the whole situation by claiming she was booked that date. So, if she tells the truth she is breaking the law and gets sued, but if she lies, she’s fine. What kind of f***ed up message is that? Lying is OK and the truth gets you sued?

Evan
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

And might I also add, to the idea that the couple was “looking for a fight.”

So what?

Activism happens in many different ways, and I can’t speak to the motivations of the couple, because I don’t know them, but who’s to say that it’s a bad thing, if this couple, after the first one called Elaine and was rebuffed, had a little “heh, let’s see what happens” moment and decided to stir the pot.

I say good for them.

Because the fact of the matter is that, even with nondiscrimination laws in place, there are still people who, either due to stupidity, ignorance, Fundamentalist Christian Entitlement Syndrome, or a combination of the three, will snub their nose at those laws as long as they can get away with it.

So, Elaine Huguenin got knocked off her pedestal. Damn right.

Evan
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

No, Desiree, this is about either understanding the law and abiding by it, or being willfully ignorant of it.

There really is no deeper issue here.

As I mentioned above, the libertarian/conservative crowd has so mangled the definition of “freedom” as to render it nothing more than a meaningless catchphrase.

Evan
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Henry said:

“Since when is forcing people to enter into contracts they don’t want to enter into “right”? Perhaps the govt in New Mexico should just “rightfully force” gay people to enter into straight marriages.”

Yeah, because marrying the person you love is the same kind of “freedom” as opening a restaurant that doesn’t allow black people through the doors.

Is this what they’re teaching on Gay Patriot these days?

Priya Lynn
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Desiree, I never expected to sway you, I don’t care about your personal opinion.

You say “this is about force pure and simple” like that automatically makes it a bad thing. Being required to pay taxes or have a license to drive is just as muach “about force pure and simple”. I don’t see you arguing that that automatically makes those a bad thing.

wackadoodle
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

“It is the same as if the government told you you *had* to work at Walmart and you have no choice otherwise you are discriminating against them.”

No its the same as if ther government had told Walmart they had to let Jews work there. Just like they tell every business.

Either you defend every racist hillbilly who doesnt want any darkies in his store or you don’t defend this woman.

Dr. Matthew
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

I couldn’t disagree more. First, as many have pointed out, if the discrimination were based on race or religious difference, to most it wouldn’t even seem controversial. We as sexual minorities are not “lesser than” because some believe their belief system has bearing on our differences.

Secondly, having lived in New Mexico, as well as a number of rural towns throughout the Great Plains, it’s frightening to think of where the line would be drawn. In many parts of the nation, and most of New Mexico’s towns fit in this description, it’s not uncommon that only one service provider exists for any given service. Grocery stores. Pharmacies. Even individual property owners own most or all rental properties in some small towns I have lived in. Allowing any business to exclude a group of persons based on minority status drastically lessens their ability to maintain a minimum quality of life. In this case it may have only been wedding photos – but the costs and risks of debating lines where discrimination is okay are too great (remember the recent case of the judge in Texas that refused to wed an interracial couple?)

I have no sympathy for Elaine – if she wants freedom to work while discriminating against minorities, of any sort, and blaming her faith for it after, she should seek employment in a faith-based organization or church. Otherwise, it hasn’t been acceptable to do so in this country since Jim Crow, and the fact that her beliefs consist of blaming her god for her bigotry didn’t work for Southern organizations that attributed their racism to a deity.

Désirée
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

here’s why trying to use government force to make Elane photograph a wedding she doesn’t want to will never work.

Let’s say she does the wedding because she knows if she doesn’t she will get sued. So instead, she photographs the wedding but does a poor job of it. Not horrible, not oh my god aweful, just not 100%. No way you can prove she didn’t give her best effort, but now you are stuck with below standard photos of the most important day of your life. The “force others to work for me” crowd just don’t get this. You want everyone to like you and if they don’t we’re gonna sick the government on you. You scare me more than the bigots to be honest.

Désirée
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

@Whackadoodle – my analogy was perfectly apt. Elane was the *employee* here not the employer. She, like all *employees* should be free to choose who she will work for. Just as you are free to not work for Walmart if you so choose, she should be free not to work for gay people if she chooses. You are confusing who is in charge. In this case the couple are the employer, akin to Walmart, choosing who to hire. They choose someone who didn’t want to work for them and when she refused, they sued her saying “you must work for us because you have offered to work for others” which is as absurd as if Walmart saw your resume on Monster.com and offered you a job because you were searching for a retail position and then sues you if you turn them done.

Freedom means the freedom to do as you will so long as you don’t interfere with anyone else’s freedom. Libertarians have not ruined the word. We’re the only ones who understand it. (and yes, taxes are bad too)

Swampfox
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

This is fight that should not have been fought in the courts……. in my opinion.

Evan
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

So, basically, Desiree, all you’re saying is that you don’t understand American law or governance.

Got it.

Moving on – nothing to see here.

Except this one thing:

“Freedom means the freedom to do as you will so long as you don’t interfere with anyone else’s freedom.”

Ta-da! According to nondiscrimination laws, which are set up to keep immature babies of all persuasions from treating people different from them TOO badly, offering a service (which is, no, not like the Wal-Mart analogy at all) to all but a specific group of people violates that group’s…FREEDOM! And LIBERTY!

And lots of other words that libertarians have mangled beyond recognition.

If you like libertarianism, there IS a country where it’s totally in effect. It’s called Somalia.

But it’s not the United States, nor has it ever been.

Evan
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

“(and yes, taxes are bad too)”

Then please stop using roads, parks, federally regulated airplanes, public parks, sidewalks, police and fire services, The Mail, socialist water/sewer systems, libraries, beaches, federally regulated food, oh, and also, the internet, which wouldn’t be here if taxpayers hadn’t funded the US government’s creation of it way back in the 60′s.

Martin
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

@Desiree said, “Elane was the *employee* here not the employer. She, like all *employees* should be free to choose who she will work for.”

Then she should have said what any other job-seeker says when offered a job they don’t want: “Thank you for the offer, but I must respectfully decline.” If she wanted to be especially gracious, she could have referred the couple to another photographer. Elane’s error was in offering an explanation when none was required.

Jarred
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Excuse me, but Elaine was not an “employee” in this situation. Well, she is, but she’s an employee of herself. She is also a “services vendor.” The relationship between her and the couple would not have been employee/employer but vendor/customer.

If you’re a waitress, you’re the restaurants employee. You don’t become my employee just because I sit at your table. But you do have to provide me the services your employer has agreed to provide anyone who walks through their front door.

andrew
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

I have to say I’m starting to think Desiree is a flamer, and not the good kind: I have to wonder if she’s not saying provocative things in an effort to be… provocative. At least I’m hoping that’s the case, and I want to put that out there in case people are having to dive for blood pressure medication when they read the thread.

It’s exasperating sometimes to communicate nuances of thought and theory when there is so much baggage — differences of concepts like Freedom are unlikely to get resolved in a thread but require much more profound life lessons. So I’m not really interested in picking a fight with Desiree. She won’t get it, and I can’t win her over. I’ll just have to wait until she experiences something analogous and sees the connection. Or gets a high school social studies education. Whatever comes first – and I’m fine with that.

That said, I’m really glad this exists, so we all have a chance to express ourselves, reflect on our thinking a little, vent a lot. I have to say, it is very reassuring to see as much thoughtfullness and analysis out there as there is.

Lastly, I’m one person who conveyed some disappointment with the couple for pursuing this the way that they did, which I know raised some hackles… My point was in reaction with the notion that it seems ludicrious to demand that someone who apparently thinks so little of you should take your wedding pictures nonetheless. Oh, Elane is flat wrong, but once that sentiment was clear, this stopped being about acquiring services and became something else. When things devolve into “win/lose”, they usually have echoes that go on for some time. What happens now, Elane just accepts that she’s wrong, sees the errors of her way, and becomes a better person? Or does she become motivated to write a huge check to TeaBaggers and volunteer to go door-to-door for Palin in 2012?

I think the law in NM is correct, and the couple was well within their rights to demand satisfaction. I hope I communicated that Elane was totally out of bounds, but that my beef here, actually, is with the Timothy, his article, and his outrageously apologist attitude and suggestion that NM should change its law.

But I also think that there are times and places to pick your battle, and “I’m not going to let her get away with this” is not likely to be the avenue to resolve the larger question, which is: How do we work to mitigate attitude’s like Elanes in the first place?

Mark F.
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

No, it is not correct to force people to do business against their will. Why do you liberals support aggression and coercion? Why can’t you leave people alone? Timothy is right in his opinion, although I’d take it much further and abolish private anti-discrimination laws altogether.

Priya Lynn said: “You say “this is about force pure and simple” like that automatically makes it a bad thing.”

Yes, it does automatically make it a bad thing. What kind of morality do you have, lady? Do you pull a gun on your friends and force them to do things?

Mark F.
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

“Elaine is not being “forced by the government” to do anything except abide by the laws of her state when conducting business.”

Yes, and businesses in the Jim Crow South were obliged to segregate the races, whether they wanted to or not. Surely all businessmen in Alabama in 1890 should have been aware of that. How dare they complain? This is just legal positivism–one must follow the law because it is the law.

Mark F.
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

“I think the law in NM is correct, and the couple was well within their rights to demand satisfaction.” Maybe they should have asked for a duel?

Mark F.
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

“Then please stop using roads, parks, federally regulated airplanes, public parks, sidewalks, police and fire services, The Mail, socialist water/sewer systems, libraries, beaches, federally regulated food, oh, and also, the internet, which wouldn’t be here if taxpayers hadn’t funded the US government’s creation of it way back in the 60’s.”

Right, the government is responsible for all good in the world. No way could any of these services have been provided privately. No private mail service exists (UPS is a figment of your imagination), there are no private parks, etc., etc.

Mark F.
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

“Either you defend every racist hillbilly who doesnt want any darkies in his store or you don’t defend this woman.”

I do defend every racist hillbilly. And why in the hell would a black person want to patronize a racist business? You want to help your enemies make money? Is that insane or what?

Mark F.
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Ben in Oakland said: “Just because it is your religious belief and it is about gay people, doesn’t make it right.”

True, but it also does not make it right for me to try to use the state to coerce people to get what I want.

elaygee
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

You’re all way too complicated for the situation. The photographer needs a business permit and license to operate a public business. That requires her to serve all customers who are not asking her to do anything illegal. If she does not want to work with certain types of people, she can forfeit her business permit. She may decide to become a religious institution and do her photography only for people who meet her high “moral” standards and for NO money. Even then, if she charges a fee, she needs a business permit and she’s back in the same place. too bad. She has the right be a bigot but she doesn’t have the right to make money at it from the public.

John
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Mark F

I suggest that you go to New Mexico and try to repeal their anti-discrimination laws by convincing the legislature and the governor of the rightness of your views. I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your quixoitc quest, though I wouldn’t hold out great hope that you will garner much support.

Regan DuCasse
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

The real point here is Elane got religion ONLY against this gay couple.
Does she discriminate against any other people who meet her religious criteria?
It’s probably why she lost in court.

Does Elane refuse to photograph couples who are divorced and remarrying?

And another point was made about having limited access to some public services. Not every gay person has the luxury of having other options, so that’s another reason why non discrimination laws MUST be enforced and those conducting public business have to comply.

Richard W. Fitch
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

elaygee – definitely the most concise and succinct comment in the thread!

Evan
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

“Timothy is right in his opinion, although I’d take it much further and abolish private anti-discrimination laws altogether.”

Ooooooooookay.

Everyone, step away.

We have a “Whites Only” on our hands.

Evan
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

“Right, the government is responsible for all good in the world. No way could any of these services have been provided privately. No private mail service exists (UPS is a figment of your imagination), there are no private parks, etc., etc.”

And yet, every time I go to the US Post Office, there’s a line. Huh. I guess they can co-exist!

And free enterprise could have created the internet, I guess, but, well, it didn’t, and as it’s a government creation, if you’re going to be a purist, you’d best stop using it.

And government-regulated food and socialist water/sewers.

Fun fact: There is privatized water in some places in the world, and it’s an unmitigated disaster. Basically what happens is wealthy foreign companies go into third world countries and convince them to relinquish control of their water. It’s not pretty.

As I said before: Somalia, dude. It’s a libertarian paradise. They’re really on to something over there!

Ben in Oakland
December 20th, 2009 | LINK

Jason– about the “looking for a fight’ thing. As i mentioned, in my experience as a wedding photographer, this would not surprise me about this couple. I learned to avoid people whom i thoughtmight be difficult. My instinct seemed to be right.

I don’t know this couple. but i am thinking that they were insulted by elaine’s holier-than-thou, and responded in kind. I would have counseled them to recognize that not everyone is ready for this, not that that is an excuse, and to concentrate their attnetion on a photographer who was comfortable so that they could have faublous photos, instead of on the negative with a photographer who couldn’t.

In that sense, i think they were looking for a fight. But Elaine was just plain dumb about it.

Phil
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

“Either you defend every racist hillbilly who doesnt want any darkies in his store or you don’t defend this woman.”

This is a false dichotomy. Elane lies somewhere on the spectrum between a racist who doesn’t want to allow racial minorities into her store and the proprietor of a “Big & Tall” boutique store that doesn’t happen to sell clothing to smaller people.

How is Elane different from, say, an Olympic-level gymnastics coach who only takes on clients if she thinks they have talent? Or a female masseur who specializes in female clients?

She provides an individualized creative service. Should a vegan caterer be forced to prepare meat dishes if a couple requests them? Does it matter whether the vegan’s reasons are religious or not?

Martin
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

@Phil: The difference between Elane and each of your examples is that in the latter, the discrimination is germane to the service being provided. The Big & Tall boutique exists to provide clothing to large and/or tall guys. The Olympic-level coach has created a business that explicitly caters to athletes who have already demonstrated a certain level of achievement. The vegan caterer offers a set menu of items (just like a restaurant). Etc., etc.

Unlike the Big & Tall shop, Elane didn’t organize her business for the purpose of serving “anyone but gay couples,” nor did she create her business with the intention of serving “couples who conform to my religious beliefs.” Unlike the coach, her time and her photography skills are not somehow “wasted” when the wedding involves a gay couple. Unlike the vegan caterer, Elane was not asked to provide a service that was substantially different from that which she would provide for a straight couple.

Elane didn’t present her business as specializing in Christian weddings, or weddings of a particular denomination. Her religious beliefs became an issue ONLY when the potential customers were gay.

Jason D
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

“She provides an individualized creative service. Should a vegan caterer be forced to prepare meat dishes if a couple requests them? Does it matter whether the vegan’s reasons are religious or not?”

False comparison.

The equivalent in this case would be forcing the wedding photographer to video a monster truck rally.

A vegan caterer probably doesn’t know HOW to cook meat, much the way a photographer is not necessarily handy with a video camera.

Désirée
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

wow, I’m a libertarian and belief in personal freedom so now I’m an agitator and “provocative”? cool!

FYI, I’m a 41 year old male to female transsexual lesbian so I’ve been on the receiving end of my share of discrimination. However, I don’t use my personal woes (or those of of some arbitrarily chosen group such as “women” or “gays”) to dictate who I will associate with or who should associate with me. I understand US law quite well thanks. Understanding and agreeing are different things though, or are we supposed to agree with the law simply because it is the law?

I won’t debate “freedom” meaning the freedom to force others to do what you want as you seem to think nor will I try to defend my libertarian beliefs. That has been done quite well elsewhere. I won’t waste my time explaining logic to people who don’t want to listen to opposing viewpoints.

What I will comment on however, is my disappointment with the ad hominom attacks on me simply because I don’t toe the socialist liberal gay line re: anti-discrimination laws. None of you choose to argue your point, but instead suggested I was a troll or my education was lacking. Typical of people who can’t defend their actual ideas. Believe it or not, not all gay folk are liberal socialists and some of us actually do have well reasoned alternative ideas on how to solve problems.

Next time, rather than just hurling insults and unfounded comments, try actually debating facts, ok? Isn’t what this blog is supposed to be about?

Priya Lynn
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

I said “You say “this is about force pure and simple” like that automatically makes it a bad thing.”

Mark F. said “Yes, it does automatically make it a bad thing. What kind of morality do you have, lady? Do you pull a gun on your friends and force them to do things?”.

That’s really dumb Mark. The government forcing people to do things isn’t automatically a bad thing, it may be in some situations, and not in others, it depends on the situation. What you’re claiming is that its automatically a bad thing that the government forces toy makers to use non-lead based paint, people not to drive drunk, murderers to spend time in jail, pjamas manufacturers to make their product non-flammable, car makers to adhere to crash safety standards, food manufacturers to ensure their product is safe to eat, etc.

Even you, if you stopped to think about it for a minute would agree that in many situtations its a damn good thing the government forces people to act in a certain way at least some of the time. The idea that forcing people to do things is automatically a bad thing is preposterous.

Priya Lynn
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

Mark and Desiree think people should be free to disobey the law whenever they want, can’t force people to do things, that would be bad.

Timothy (TRiG)
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

Libertarians!

Gaaah!

*Runs away screaming*

People, please. Go and read some Dickens. Do you really want a return to slums, mass unemployment, no health and safety standards, poverty traps, and all the rest of it?

Libertarians are political “philosophers” completely removed from the real world. And they haven’t read Dickens. And they worry me.

The entire advance of humanity since the Industrial Revolution has been a move away from libertarianism. With good reason.

TRiG.

Priya Lynn
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

Really, though Trig. They seem to think freedom should be absolute, that if we force a serial killer to stop murdering that that’s “automatically a bad thing” because we forced someone to do something.

Priya Lynn
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

Replace “we” in my above comment with “the government” – that’s more what Libertarians seem to be protesting.

Priya Lynn
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

I’m at a loss as to why anyone thinks having to photograph a lesbian couple’s ceremony is any sort of imposition on Elaine whatsoever. Suppose she had agreed to do it – she’d have simply done the same work she had done many, many times before, it would have been no different, no more difficult, she’d have been paid the same amount. Just exactly what would have taking this job deprived her of of any significance whatsoever? Nothing, she’d have done a job for someone she didn’t particularly like, something many, many, other people do every day without any thought whatsoever. Anyone as petty and self-centred as Elaine deserves to be punished.

Evan
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

“I won’t debate “freedom” meaning the freedom to force others to do what you want as you seem to think nor will I try to defend my libertarian beliefs. That has been done quite well elsewhere.”

Haha, where?

Megan McArdle’s blog, or as I like to call it, the International House of Fail?

The rest of the comment is pure projection, since 90% of the comments in this thread have involved simple explanations for why nondiscrimination laws are just, necessary, and constitutional. Sorry we haven’t drawn any pictures yet, but I’m sure one of us would be willing, if that would be helpful.

Timothy Kincaid
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

grantdale

Firstly, why 15 or any number? (I know you probably aren’t wedded to the number Timothy, just asking.)

You are correct, I’m not wedded to the number. I’m simply trying to differentiate between a business and a single-person enterprise.

Rob

I echo much of what’s been said. I’d also like to note that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only has the 15 employee coverage limit for Title VII (its employment discrimination portion), Title II which covers public accommodations has no such employee coverage limit.

Thanks for the clarification.

Désirée
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

that’s good Priya, don’t debate about what we *actually* said, just make sh!t up, claim we said that and then deride us for it. My respect for you just dropped off a cliff.

Priya Lynn
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

I didn’t make it up Desiree, you exclaimed “this is about force pure and simple” as though the mere fact that the government was forcing someone to do something automatically meant the government action was wrong. You said it and Mark F. confirmed that it was his belief as well that the sole fact that force was being used automatically meant the action was wrong. I merely took that idea to its logical extreme to show it was absurd.

If you want to backtrack now and admit your statement “this is about force pure and simple” doesn’t mean that merely by virtue of using force the government action is wrong, that you need some rationale beyond that to show that this action is wrong, I’ll be happy to accept that.

Priya Lynn
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

And Desiree, your respect for me, or lack thereof is of no concern or value to me whatsoever.

Désirée
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

Priya, you have demonstrated you have no desire to have any kind of logical debate. Libertarians, like myself, abhor the use of force. We accept government force solely to protect the rights of citizens from being violated by others. In libertarina philosophy, no one is allowed to interfere with your right to life, liberty or property. Police (i.e. government) are allowed to prevent you from being harmed, from having your property stolen or being enslaved. (this list is not comprehensive but covers the basics. As you are more pedantic than even I am, I now feel the need to over explain everything in order for you to grasp it in anything but your typical shallow manner).

Please explain to me how the rights of the gay couple were violated by this one photographer refusing to work at their wedding. Did she harm them? No. Did she steal from them? No. Did she enslave them? No. So what exactly did she do to them that interfered with their freedom? Nothing that I can see.

If you wish to be a jerk and insist that because I said force is bad and interpret that as an absolute, go right ahead, but don’t try to claim that is what I said, because it is not. It simply demonstrates your (continued) inability to debate in any kind of logical manner.

Evan
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

“Please explain to me how the rights of the gay couple were violated by this one photographer refusing to work at their wedding. Did she harm them? No. Did she steal from them? No. Did she enslave them? No. So what exactly did she do to them that interfered with their freedom? Nothing that I can see.”

Oh god, this is so simple! The couple solicited Elaine for a service which Elaine provides, and the couple needed. They were denied on the basis of who they are. It would be no different if it had been a black woman and a white man, and Elaine said “I’m sorry, I don’t do interracial weddings,” or if the couple had been Asian, and she said “I’m sorry, I don’t photograph Asians,” or, to POSSIBLY DRIVE THE POINT HOME, if you had gone to Elaine and she had said “I’m sorry, I simply don’t serve transgender people.” (Though she probably would have used a more derogatory term.)

Priya, I think it’s important to realize that there is a brick wall here, and we’re arguing with it. As usual, it’s saying the same thing over and over and over again, i.e. nothing.

George Bingham
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

The more I think about this, the more I agree with what the law did in this case. If I were to go in business as say a plumber, or a doctor, should I have the right to refuse my services to anyone? Where would we draw the line? What if I believed that white people were inherently more sinful than non-whites, and therefore refused to fix their cars, or serve them in my restaurant?

Just like I don’t think GLBT people should settle for “tolerance” from society – nor do I believe we should tolerate anything less than full equality in all our dealings with individuals and society!

Having said that – I would not have wanted to do business with wedding photographers that held deeply seated reservations about my right or my worthiness to marry – I mean, what kind of pictures would they expect to come from an arrangement like that??

Jason D
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

Desire, by your logic, someone can just walk into your home when you’re not there, sit down, and start watching your TV.

After all
Would this harm you? No, you’re not home.

Is this stealing? No. Your cable is not being charged per minute, they’re not leaving with it, and certainly not depriving you of the use of it as you are not home to use it.

Does this enslave you? No.

That’s the problem with spelling out what your exact beliefs are, you paint yourself into a ridiculous corner.

ANd on a different point you made about lying. There’s a difference between lying and professional courtesy. If one wishes to work with the public, one learns how to deal with customers politely and respectfully — even when saying “No”. It’s not about lying, it’s about respecting other people.

Désirée
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

Evan, I’m not an idiot. I understand what she did. I asked how their rights were violated. Which right specifically? Their right to have this woman shoot their wedding? Why do you assume they have the right to some one else’s services? Yes we have a brick wall here. On my side is freedom on your side is force.

Evan
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

“I asked how their rights were violated. Which right specifically?”

One more time, even though it’s been explained repeatedly for over 80 comments:

Their right to be treated equally as per the laws of the state of New Mexico when soliciting a service from a vendor. If the vendor does not like the laws of the state in which she lives, she has several choices: 1. Suck it up and abide by the law like a grown-up, as opposed to being a whiny baby who thinks her bigotry has anything to do with her business. 2. Find a new job. 3. Move to another place where she can be free to deny services to gay people, at least until they change their laws to include sexual orientation. (Thank god, as has been pointed out before, that Elaine is a mere wedding photographer, and not the only heart surgeon for 300 miles.) 4. Break the law again and get sued, again.

And again, when you use the word “freedom,” you might well be typing a random combination of letters, numbers and characters, because your “defintion” of the word is so mangled as to be absolutely meaningless.

Burr
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

You know, if you can’t even be bothered to learn the difference between libertarianism and anarchy, you really shouldn’t be talking.

Somalia is not a libertarian paradise, because the government there does not do the basic necessary things to secure liberty (i.e. property rights, rule of law, due process, etc.).

Evan
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

Rule of law?!

But that would restrict mah freedom!

Désirée
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

which right was that again? the right to life, liberty or property? the right to have other people be nice to you simply doesn’t exist, sorry. You may make a law that say it does, but that doesn’t make it so. It just makes it the law. And I would certainly hope no one here argues that law is good because it’s the law, otherwise you better give up wanting federal marrage rights, since the law says you can’t have them and we all known the law is always correct right?

It saddens me that your idea of freedom is so skewed from what it actual means that you think I am the one with the mangled definition. Try reading some Aristotle and Locke to get a better understanding of what freedom really means.

Phil
December 21st, 2009 | LINK

Unlike the Big & Tall shop, Elane didn’t organize her business for the purpose of serving “anyone but gay couples,” nor did she create her business with the intention of serving “couples who conform to my religious beliefs.”

Actually, according to her actions, that is exactly how she organized her business: she was interested in providing the service of photographing male-female weddings.

“Unlike the coach, her time and her photography skills are not somehow “wasted” when the wedding involves a gay couple.”

And what if she thinks that they are? Who is better qualified to determine what is and is not a waste of Elane’s time? A stranger, or Elane herself? People have a right to be bigots. They have a right to think bad things, and to be stupid.

If I hire a kosher caterer for my wedding and I tell him that, instead of providing shaved beef, my religious beliefs require me to eat shaved ham, is he discriminating if he refuses to cater the wedding? Why should _I_ get to decide what is an imposition on my caterer’s religious beliefs and what isn’t? Why should a couple get to decide what is an imposition on a photographer’s beliefs and what isn’t?

I think the personal nature of the service provided makes a difference. The owner of an apartment building cannot refuse to rent a unit to a couple based on their race, but a Muslim man who has a room to let inside his home can choose not to rent it to a woman. A single woman with a spare room can choose not to rent it to a man.

Timothy (TRiG)
December 22nd, 2009 | LINK

I’m not sure what I think of this specific case. I certainly approve of anti-discrimination acts in general. Libertarians, who care nothing for real freedoms, only for property rights, would disagree with me. Libertarians don’t understand that humans are social animals. Libertarians are eager to return us to a Dickensian dystopia.

Phil’s point that the personal nature of the service provided makes a difference is bothering me. Phil might be right. I’m not sure.

TRiG.

Phil
December 22nd, 2009 | LINK

I think it’s important to point out that standing up for the right of a person like Elane to express her beliefs is not the same thing as standing up for those beliefs.

This is an important distinction for gay people to make. Too many people of faith have voted (literally voted, not just expressed an opinion) against gay marriage in the past few years because they believe that allowing someone else to act in accordance with their beliefs is somehow an affront to their own beliefs. That’s just wrong. My right to live according to my beliefs is intrinsically linked to someone else’s right to live according to their beliefs.

When Catholics, for example, try to use the law to force me to follow Catholic teachings, it’s an attack on my beliefs, but it’s also an attack on their own. It’s a vote that says thatit’s the government’s place to enforce religious rules. Unfortunately, the gay community doesn’t always engage very well when it comes to dialoguing with people of faith.

Jason D
December 26th, 2009 | LINK

“If I hire a kosher caterer for my wedding and I tell him that, instead of providing shaved beef, my religious beliefs require me to eat shaved ham, is he discriminating if he refuses to cater the wedding? Why should _I_ get to decide what is an imposition on my caterer’s religious beliefs and what isn’t? Why should a couple get to decide what is an imposition on a photographer’s beliefs and what isn’t?”

False comparison, A caterer often provides you with a sample of what they are willing/able to prepare. Their specialties. You do NOT tell them what to make, they tell you what your options are. If you want something else, you have to go to someone else. In some cases a caterer will sub-contract to get something they don’t know how to make, but it’s usually at a cost-prohibitive markup. More to the point, a Kosher caterer not only won’t make ham, they won’t know HOW to cook ham properly. It requires knowing how to prepare the meat safely and correctly.

Not true of photos of a gay couple. It does not require a different kind of photography or camera, one Elaine might not know how to use.

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