The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled last week that a Christian photographer could not decline to do business with a lesbian couple who wanted their wedding photographed.
In 2006 this photographer expressed that because of her religious beliefs she only photographs traditional weddings. The same-sex couple filed a complaint with the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission, citing that state law doesn’t allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.
This is one of the first major cases where religious liberty intersects with gay rights. This case is bigger than a discrimination issue, it is about more than sexual orientation, and it is about more than freedom of religion. This case is about free markets and the fact that the government should not be exhausting time and taxpayers’ money to oversee how a freelance photographer runs her business.
The photographer should have the right to express her religious opinion and to refuse service to those she does not want to work with. The consequence is her loss of profit. Other businesses may have no problem working for a gay couple; that choice is not only reasonable but is a competitive advantage for them. This photographer is limiting her customer base. As part of a free market, she is allowed to do that. In turn, her customers will determine whether or not she has a profitable business, not the government.
In the concurring opinion of the court, Justice Richard Bosson went on to ask that the photographer and her husband, “channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for Americans who believe something different.”
Her conduct was legal and hinged on the rights given to her in the First Amendment, yet Justice Bosson uses the court to “channel” and to regulate her business. In other words, the lesbian couple with different beliefs is given legal backing to force the photographer to sacrifice her religious rights in favor of a business contract.
This case has nothing to do with the fact that the couple has a right to celebrate their relationship publicly. Rather, it is approaching the issue of the government trumping a fundamental American right and abusing a business transaction in the process.