ADF Spins Obvious Loss

The Supreme Court on Monday denied cert in a case involving a photography business in New Mexico that refused to serve a lesbian couple’s wedding. The Alliance Defending Freedom represented the business and they seem to be straining really hard to put a positive spin on that:

The case centered on Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin and their business, Elane Photography. In 2006, they refused to work at the commitment ceremony of Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth. The lesbian couple was able to find another photographer but still filed a discrimination grievance against Elane Photography with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.

The Huguenins lost at every level of the court fight, and on Monday that defeat became final. Attorney Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, represented Elane Photography in the case. He said the court’s decision not to hear the case is disappointing, but he sees a silver lining.

“This is not the same thing as the Court summarily affirming the decision below. All that means is that the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case. They did mull this over for three extra times at their conference, which is encouraging in a slight way that it means the justices took this case seriously, gave it a lot of extra consideration but decided, ultimately, not to hear the case,” Lorence said.

This is pretty dishonest spin. Yes, it’s true that a denial of cert is not the same thing as affirming the lower court and it doesn’t make the case a national precedent, but the fact that they considered the case four times and still didn’t take it is a bad thing for their cause, not a good thing. It only takes four justices to grant cert and hear a case. That they considered it four times indicates that someone was pushing really hard to take the case — almost certainly from the conservative side of the court — and could not convince even three other conservatives to agree with them. That can’t be a good thing for the ADF’s case and they know it, they’re just trying to put a positive spin on a clearly negative result.

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  • John Pieret

    Of course, they fail to mention that no monetary or injunctive relief was involved and that, although plaintiffs Willock and Collinsworth were awarded attorney’s fees, they waived them. In short, the lower courts simply said that photographers who operate a business that includes taking photographs of weddings can’t refuse to do the same when the participants happen to be gay.

    It doesn’t sound so much like persecution when there is no penalty involved.

  • scienceavenger

    I don’t get the fundamental argument that taking photographs at this wedding, or a baker selling a cake to the gay couple, or Hobby Lobby paying for insurance that includes birth control, violates their religion, and I REALLY don’t get why they aren’t being challenged on this. I can understand if the law required THEM to use the birth control, or be gay, that it’d be a violation of their religious freedom, but since when does doing something tangentally related to the sinful activity in question itself become a sin?

    If selling insurance that might be used to do something sinful is itself a sin, then isn’t selling a gun that might be used for murder be a sin too? If taking pictures of the gay wedding is a sin, then isn’t the traffic cop directing traffic into the parking lot sinning too? How about the lumberjack who provided the wood to make the paper that the marriage license is printed on? Where does it end? And why aren’t they being challenged on their basic argument: This violates your religious views? Show me where.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Willock & Collinsworth got lucky. Not in their legal case – the strength of same was proven by their unbroken string of court victories – but in the Huguenins having decided to fight back rather than give in and produce a set of awful photos for W & C’s big day.

    Imagine trying to sue for a batch of pictures deliberately messed up to make you look bad…

  • moarscienceplz

    I don’t get the fundamental argument that taking photographs at this wedding, or a baker selling a cake to the gay couple, or Hobby Lobby paying for insurance that includes birth control, violates their religion

    You don’t get it because in fact it doesn’t violate their religion. Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality. What is being violated is their pretty pink bubble of conformity. If people who don’t live as they do still deserve to be treated as fully human, that implies that they may not be the sole arbiters of righteousness. If old white people don’t get to tell everybody else how to live, then what is this world coming to? Also, there goes the neighborhood, and, kids these days, and grumble, grumble, zzzzzzz……

  • Sastra

    scienceavenger #2 wrote:

    I don’t get the fundamental argument that taking photographs at this wedding, or a baker selling a cake to the gay couple, or Hobby Lobby paying for insurance that includes birth control, violates their religion,

    It won’t apply to Hobby Lobby, but in my opinion the photographer and baker are at least partly appealing to the implicit belief that art-must-come-from-the-heart. Photography and cake decorating are often considered to be special crafts, creative products which reflect the skill, vision, and attitude of a particular craftsman. Most cultures apply special rules when something is seen as being like art or like a gift, a personal reflection and interaction of both giver and receiver.

    If an artist who was sincerely opposed to hunting was asked to paint a series of beautiful portraits of hunters and their kill, we wouldn’t be surprised if the artist refused. The bad feelings would probably be reflected in the art, with the deer heads looking desperate and the sportsmen looking smug. Wedding photographers and cooks may be suffering from delusions of grandeur here, seeing the situation of creating a thing of beauty for a wedding they consider an abomination a real imposition on their aesthetic sensibilities.

    Being religious, they probably personally view their work as a spiritual one. The lovely inner narrative is gone.

  • cptdoom

    @ Sastra, But the thing is, if the photographer had said “wow, I’ve never gotten a request like that and I don’t think I could do a good job.” The couple involved might never have filed a complaint. The photographer could also have lied “I’m sorry, I just realized I accidentally double-booked myself for that day and the other couple was first.”

    Instead the photographer in question decided to get on her moral high horse and explain how she would never photograph a wedding like that because the women were so immoral. Let’s face it, there are many ways to get around non-discrimination laws and still not deal with the icky people you don’t want to, but if you blatantly tell the customer you are discriminating against them, you are likely going to get burned.

  • scienceavenger

    @5 Per your argument wouldn’t this then comprise a general exemption from the nondiscrimation clause of the Civil Rights Act, thus allowing them to refuse similar service to blacks if the artist was racist, for fear of adding spears and nose-bones to the happy wedding scene?

    @4 I’m arguing that even if Jesus had said that homosexuality was a sin, that doesn’t mean that taking photos of homosexuals is a sin. The bible says “A man shall not lie with a man”., it doesn’t say “No man shall have any business dealings with men who lie with men”, nor do I see any precedant for that.

    Tony Perkins was on the news saying that the law could not be abused by people making up religious views on the fly because they would be required to demonstrate that their objection was a deeply held religious view. I don’t see how the stuff being discussed can come close to doing that.

  • Randomfactor

    “No man shall have any business dealings with men who lie with men”

    Yeah, the prescribed remedy is a bit more violent–and ALSO illegal.

    So how come it doesn’t violate their religion to stop them from stoning someone to death–expressly commanded–but it does violate their religion to make them treat people equally when making graven images –a profession expressly forbidden.