In a unanimous opinion issued today, the justices of the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld that state’s anti-discrimination laws which prohibit businesses from refusing to offer their services to a person based on that person’s sexual orientation. The Court rejected arguments that this mandate violates the business owner’s right to free speech and religious observance.
The case in question is one in which a wedding photographer, and co-owner of her business, refused to offer her services to a lesbian couple for their “commitment ceremony.” New Mexico’s Human Rights Commission opened an investigation and found that the company was guilty of discrimination based on sexual orientation in violation of the state’s public accommodation law. Their decision was upheld by the New Mexico Court of Appeals in June of 2012. Today’s decision similarly affirms the previous opinions made on the issue.
Today’s opinion is the latest in a trend of problematic legal developments surrounding the question of discrimination as it relates to businesses and the individuals who comprise them. We argue that all persons regularly discriminate on a regular basis for a number of reasons when determining with whom they wish to interact and engage in commerce. While we do not advocate for any particular form of discrimination, especially against a person’s innate characteristics, we affirm that the government may not legitimately compel another person to not discriminate on that basis. While society at large may find a certain form of discrimination repugnant, such actions must be left resolved to peer pressure and public advocacy, rather than punitive legal actions.
Utah has seen its own advances in anti-discrimination law, with multiple municipalities enacting ordinances requiring business owners and landlords to not discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation. Earlier this year, a bill was proposed in the Utah legislature to enact such a policy on a state-wide basis, but died in committee.
While New Mexico’s law and today’s Court opinion do not affect Utah directly, the precedent and political momentum they help to continue will affect other states, including Utah, in the years ahead. So-called “gay rights” activists have previously pledged to continue their efforts to impose anti-discrimination policies upon all Utahns, thereby restricting the rights of property owners who may, for whatever reason, desire not to employ or rent to certain individuals.