Although I’m a strong advocate of same-sex marriage, and have attended a number of gay and lesbian ceremonies long before they were legal in any U.S. state, I am very disturbed by a ruling of New Mexico’s Human Rights Commission that a photography studio, Elane Photography (owned by Elaine Huguenin and Jonathan Huguenin, was not within its rights to decline a job photographing a same-sex wedding. (That link is to the NPR story–scroll down–and in the midst of the coverage is a link to download a PDF of the actual decision.) And the photography studio is to pick up $6,637.94 in plaintiff’s legal fees!
The decision quotes the actual e-mail correspondence, which was civil, measured,not the least bit threatening, and simply stating that the couple did not choose to photograph same-sex weddings.
When someone contacts me regarding my copywriting/consulting services, I send back an e-mail response that includes the following:
Please note that I reserve the right to reject a project if I feel I’m not the right person for it. This would include projects that in my opinion promote racism, homophobia, bigotry or violence–or that promote the tobacco, nuclear power, or weapons industries–or if I do not feel the product is of high enough quality that I can get enthusiastic about it.
In other words, I am putting out my values and stating clearly that I will not accept projects in conflict with my values. I have in fact occasionally turned down projects because they were promoting causes I actively disagree with. And in my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, I even have a section called “When to Say No to a Sale.”
While the values of these photographers are not my values, I think they, too, should have the right to turn down projects that violate their particular beliefs. I feel this on both ethical and practical grounds: the truth is, when someone takes on a project in conflict with deep internal values, that person won’t turn in good work.
I support their right to not be hired to perform their art for a cause they disagree with; this is not a public accommodation, such as a restaurant or hotel denying service. It is not a job discrimination issue, but a self-employed couple in the creative arts choosing not to be hired by a prospective client.
It would be a sad day indeed if someone were to compel me to write propaganda for, say, a homophobic organization, or a company whose primary product is nuclear weapons.
I don’t know if there’s any appeal process for the New Mexico board, but I certainly hope there is. Something is very definitely rotten in this decision.