Why Not Force Somebody Who Hates You to Photograph Your Wedding?


Memories we'll cherish forever!

A photo studio in New Mexico cannot refuse to shoot gay weddings for religious reasons, said the state's court of appeals Tuesday, and doing so violates their Human Rights Act. This is the third ruling against Elane Photography. Via the Albuquerque Journal:

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission and District Judge Alan Malott have concluded in rulings in 2008 and 2009 that the studio violated the Human Rights Act.

Malott found the studio is a "public accommodation" — an establishment that provides services to the public — and as such may not refuse its services on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex or sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical or mental handicap.

Elane Photography argued that as a provider of discretionary, unique and expressive services, it was not a public accommodation within the meaning of the act.

New Mexico's legal definition of a "public accommodation" is very vague. Pretty much anybody engaging in any act of capitalism that touches the public applies.

It's a victory for … nobody really. Meaningless gestures, maybe? It's not a victory for anybody trying to convince religious conservatives that the government recognizing gay marriage won't interfere with their own religious practices. It's certainly not a victory for the Freedom of Association accorded by the First Amendment.

Who wants a wedding photographer who is repulsed by their union and is forced to be there by law? What sort of outcome is going to be produced here that is going to make anybody involved happy (besides the lawyers, of course)?

The natural rejoinder is typically, "Should they be allowed to discriminate against black couples?" The appropriate volley is, "What black couple would want racists shooting their wedding?" While it might make somebody feel smug or superior to use the law to demand service from people who don't like them for whatever stupid reasons, perhaps an outcome-based analysis is preferable when hiring somebody to produce images from your special day that you hope to hang in your living room for the rest of your life.

In any event, aren't there good market-based solutions to this sort of discrimination? Punching in "photographers" and "New Mexico" at gayweddings.com brings up two pages worth of matches. Let somebody who actually supports the gay community get the money rather than browbeating some homophobe into working for it. Don't help keep them in business!

Here's a better idea: Find a dating service that actually wants your business.

The wedding suit pales compared to the absurdity of what dating site eHarmony has faced over public accommodations and gay customers.  The dating site was sued back in 2008 for only serving heterosexual couples, claiming their matching programming was not designed for gay couples. That the site was at the time primarily marketed toward Christians through Focus on the Family was probably a good indicator of some additional not-so-hidden motives.

Eventually eHarmony agreed to create a site for lovelorn gays to seek matches, but even that wasn't enough for some folks. They were sued again because the matchmaking services were too separate. As Mashable reported in January, 2010:

Dating site eHarmony has settled a lawsuit in California by agreeing to end the separation of its homosexual and heterosexual matchmaking services.

eHarmony agreed to open a site for gay and lesbian customers after another lawsuit in 2008, but it did not cross-promote or even link between the two sites, and it kept subscriptions separate. …

eHarmony will add its name to Compatible Partners, link it from the main eHarmony website alongside its Jewish, black, Christian and senior portals, and unify subscriptions. The company will also pay out $500,000 to around 150 Californians to settle. That's in addition to the $1.5 million it has spent defending itself in court.

How dare eHarmony design its matchmaking services to keep its gay clientele from dating its straight clientele? It's exactly like the drinking fountains again!

And of course, the marketplace is absolutely freaking flooded with matchmaking services, making all of this pointless and stupid. Rival Chemistry.com even used eHarmony's restrictive matching system in an advertising campaign competing against them. The LGBT community doesn't need eHarmony's crap. Does anybody even use its Compatible Partners site? Why would they?

I can press a button on my iPhone right now to find gay dudes. Not a single gay person is being denied matchmaking services by eHarmony's absence in the marketplace.

The purpose of these lawsuits is not to fight for equal rights but to punish religious jerks. It is an absurd battle for stupid reasons whose victories are utterly hollow.

(Hat tip to Hit and Run commenter Mo' Sparky for the lead)