Thursday, June 14, 2012

Are gay rights and religious freedom in conflict?

I don't think they have to be, but it appears they are in New Mexico:
"In 2008, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found Elane Photography, an Albuquerque photography studio co-owned by Elaine Huguenin and her husband, Jonathan, guilty of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for refusing to photograph Vanessa Willock’s same-sex “commit ment ceremony.” The court ordered the business to pay $6,600 in attorney’s fees.
If it was little surprise that the commission found in favor of Willock, it was a shock when, last month, the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. The three-judge panel rejected Elane Photography’s claim that forcing the business to photograph the same-sex ceremony against its conscientious objections constituted “compelled speech” in violation of the owners’ federal and state rights. It also rejected the Huguenins’ claims to protection under the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause and the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act."
I believe in gay marriage. And I also believe in a First Amendment that lets conservative Christians complain about gay marriage—which is why I suspect that this ruling will be struck down, although somebody more familiar with the law on "public accommodations" might be able to educate me further on that. Is there a good reason to require Elane Photography to take these photos?

One reason that some Christians vociferously oppose gay civil marriage is because they don't think they'll be left alone—they suspect that they'll be forced in some fashion to endorse those marriages against their conscience. Mostly, I think that's wrong: No law is going to require a Catholic priest perform gay commitment ceremonies, now or ever. But stuff like this is going to make it harder for gays and their allies to win and secure that right to civil marriage. If rights are treated as a zero-sum affair, then somebody has to lose something. And in that case, it seems unlikely the losers will be heterosexual conservative Christians.

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