Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court not to consider a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling could have vastly greater consequences than just hurting a photographer in Taos.
When Elaine Huguenin received an email request to shoot a same-sex “wedding” in the summer of 2006, her polite reply sent Vanessa Willock over the edge. Doing the shooting was against her religious beliefs, said Huguenin, but she would be glad to refer Willock to someone else. This hadn’t been a problem for the owner of Elane Photography before when she declined to photograph a nude pregnant woman or a bloody dead body to promote a horror film. But Willock was a homosexual and she had her rights!
She complained to the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, which not only ruled for Willock and against Huguenin, but also required Huguenin to pay Willock’s $7,000 attorney’s fee.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) offered to help Huguenin, and appealed the decision. Same result: commission’s decision was confirmed. They appealed again, this time to the state’s Supreme Court. Its ruling – the one that the Supreme Court has left standing without actually confirming it – was a doozy. Wrote the judge:
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.
Not one word about the First Amendment or, for that matter, the Thirteenth (the one outlawing involuntary servitude back in 1865). Both are relevant. Both were ignored. And that’s likely the most important consequence of letting this outrageous decision stand by the Supremes: ignore the Constitution often enough and it will go away.
Of course the homosexual community was ecstatic. Amber Royster of Equality New Mexico exulted:
[The case is] about discrimination. It’s not religious rights versus gay rights.
We have a law on the books that makes it illegal to discriminate against LGBT persons. It makes it illegal for businesses to do that, and this business broke [that] law by discriminating against this couple.
It’s all about the law, ignoring such things as the Bill of Rights and the right of private property and the right to contract without coercion. The right to make a contract implies the right not to make a contract. Individuals discriminate in every area of their lives every single day: go to church, or take in a movie? Dinner out with some friends, excluding others? Taking a trip? Which motel to stay in? Discrimination is freedom.
At the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that each person should decide for himself or herself the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression.
At the heart of the New Mexico court’s decision, however, is the principle of involuntary servitude, defined for 150 years in this country as “the condition of an individual who works for another individual against his or her will as a result of force, coercion, or imprisonment.” This was outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist with the United States….”
The ADF attorneys put the best face possible on the Court’s decision to pass, saying that it really wasn’t binding, and that the court spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide whether or not to take on the case, and that besides, there were several other cases winding their up to the Court covering the same issue. Someday, said the attorneys, the Court will have to take one of them on.
Small comfort for Ms. Huguerin and her husband. They are now a target for reprisal, embarrassment, and humiliation. Small comfort for those small business owners whose First Amendment rights have just been chilled, to say nothing of the conflict between keeping their faith and keeping their business.
If the Constitution and its rule of law is ignored long enough, it will go away. Sir Thomas Moore knew that back in 1529. In the film Man for all Seasons, Moore is under attack by a dimwit, William Roper. Here is Moore’s marvelous soliloquy:
Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of the law?
Moore: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: Yes! I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Moore: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?
This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
World News Daily: Supremes ‘serious’ about ‘gay’ suits vs. Christians
World News Daily: ‘A government every American should fear’
Alliance Defending Freedom: Elaine and Jon’s Story
Information Liberation: US Supreme Court Endorses Involuntary Servitude
Legal Dictionary: Definition of Involuntary Servitude