November 1, 2012

Becket Fund Defends Photographer in New Mexico Supreme Court

Image: Becket Fund Defends Photographer in New Mexico Supreme Court

Becket Fund amicus brief steps in for religious freedom of New Mexico photographer forced to pay fines for exercising beliefs, argues that RFRA applies to private suits

By: Asma Uddin

Last week, the Becket Fund filed an amicus brief to aid the New Mexico Supreme Court in its review of the case of an Albuquerque photographer forced to pay almost $7,000 for declining to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony.

Among the issues the Court will consider is whether the photographer, Elaine Huegenin, is entitled to an exemption under New Mexico’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (NMRFRA). The lower court had refused to apply NMRFRA, holding that it did not apply to a suit that did not involve a government party.

The Becket Fund brief argues forcefully that the lower court was wrong:

“That conclusion was incorrect. It contradicts the holdings of most of the United States Courts of Appeals with respect to the federal RFRA; it contradicts the text, history, and purpose of NMRFRA; and it produces anomalous results. This conclusion is confirmed by new research into the legislative history of the disputed language—research that goes far beyond the evidence considered by any previous court.”

Through extensive analysis into NMRFRA’s text, purpose, and legislative history, along with an overview of relevant policy implications, the brief makes critical and novel arguments sure to make an impact beyond this case.


In the photo: Elaine Huguenin of Elane Photography. Courtesy: Alliance Defense Fund