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Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Appeal From Homophobic Photographer Who Discriminated Against Gays

In a sign of the fate of the "religious liberty" bills that are sweeping the country with very little success (save for Mississippi), the Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from a homophobe who thinks the First Amendment allowed her to discriminate in her commercial business. 

Last summer we brought you news that the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against the owners of Elane Photography, who found themselves in court after refusing service to a gay couple. Lofted by the dwindling fundamentalist Christian homophobic movement, Elane Photography had hoped to appeal before the Supreme Court. On Monday, they learned that was not going to happen. 

The LA Times has more:

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal is not a ruling, but it is significant that the appeal did not attract the four votes needed to grant a hearing.

Last month, the court heard arguments in a somewhat related issue over whether family-owned corporations have a religious-liberty right to refuse to pay for the full range of contraceptives required under the federal healthcare law.

However, the appeal in the Elane Photography case focused only on the 1st Amendment and the freedom of speech. Lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom said the New Mexico anti-discrimination law would force the photographer to “create expression” in violation of her beliefs. Critics called the law a form of "compelled speech."

The appeal argued that a state anti-bias law, when applied broadly, would “require individuals who create expression for a living -- like marketers, advertisers, publicists and website designers -- to speak in conflict with their consciences.”

"No court has ever held that businesses have a First Amendment right to discriminate, and it is no surprise that the Supreme Court has denied this attempt to overturn settled law," said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "Selling commercial wedding photography services, like selling a wedding cake or a flower arrangement, does not mean that a business owner endorses a customer's marriage. The business is simply providing a commercial service. Everybody has the right to express their views on whatever subject they wish, and that includes business owners. But every business has to play by the same rules to protect customers from discrimination in the marketplace. No court has ever held that businesses have a First Amendment right to discriminate, and it is no surprise that the Supreme Court has denied this attempt to overturn settled law. Selling commercial wedding photography services, like selling a wedding cake or a flower arrangement, does not mean that a business owner endorses a customer's marriage. The business is simply providing a commercial service. Everybody has the right to express their views on whatever subject they wish, and that includes business owners. But every business has to play by the same rules to protect customers from discrimination in the marketplace."

Without skipping a beat, anti-gay hate groups like the Alliance Defense Fund are already attempting to fundraise over today's SCOTUS denial. 

Comments

SCOTUS made the right decision here. Conflating business decisions with free speech is not an accurate assertion of the first amendment protections. Otherwise, virtually all forms of discrimination, including religious discrimination, could persist commercially by asserting a free speech right to do so.

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