I just finished reading the New Mexico trial court’s Elane Photography decision, and thought I’d blog a bit about it. Let me begin with the compelled speech question.
Elane Photography — a husband-and-wife company in which the wife, Elaine Huguenin, is the head photographer (and I think the only routine photographer) — refused to photograph a same-sex wedding. This, the court held, violates state antidiscrimination law, since commercial photographers, as well as “film editor[s], commercial music composer[s], commercial musician[s], graphic designer[s] or any other creative professional[s] whose services are available to the public,” are treated as “public accommodation[s]” under New Mexico law. And the refusal to photograph same-sex weddings constitutes sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodations, which state law bans.
But, Huguenin says, requiring me to photograph same-sex weddings on the same terms as other weddings compels me to create expressive works. The First Amendment presumptively bars speech compulsions as well as speech restrictions; creating photography is a form of speech; therefore, I can’t be compelled to create photography, any more than I can be compelled to say things or display things on my property. Not so, says the court:
Plaintiff is not being asked to represent the government’s position …, nor to alter its message …. Plaintiff’s message is not and has never been about same-sex marriages. Rather, its message is fine photography of special moments. Unlike the parade [involved in Hurley, a case in which the Supreme Court held a parade organizer could not be legally compelled to let a gay/lesbian/bisexual group’s float into its parade -EV], Plaintiff’s final message is not its own. Instead, Plaintiff is conveying its client’s message of a day well spent. As Defedant Willock states, Plaintiff is really a conduit or an agent for its clients. As such, the Court’s finding