BY JERI CLAUSING
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from a studio that refused to photograph a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony, letting stand a New Mexico high court ruling that helped spur a national debate over gay rights and religious freedom.
The justices left in place a unanimous state Supreme Court ruling last year that said Elane Photography violated New Mexico's Human Rights Act by refusing to photograph the same-sex ceremony "in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races."
Elane Photography co-owner Elaine Huguenin said taking the photos for Vanessa Willock and her partner would violate her religious beliefs. She said she also has a right of artistic expression under the First Amendment that allows her to choose what pictures to take, or refrain from taking.
She was ordered to pay more than $7,000 in attorneys' fees, which Willock waived.
The case has been cited as lawmakers in other states have proposed legislation exempting people from such lawsuits if doing business with same-sex couples violates their religious beliefs.