Podcast: Will the New Mexico photography case blow up anti-discrimination laws?

Should a company be allowed to refuse customers because of their sexual orientation? Two leading experts, Michael Dorf from Cornell Law and Richard Epstein from New York University Law, debate a very complicated issue that is before the Supreme Court.

20050422114651!US_Supreme_Court_BuildingDorf and Epstein joined National Constitution Center’s Jeffrey Rosen for a fascinating discussion about the history of anti-discrimination laws, the current New Mexico case, and what the case means for free speech and the free exercise of religion.

This Supreme Court is currently considering Elane Photography v. Willock, a lawsuit filed by a New Mexico photography studio that declined to shoot a same-sex commitment ceremony held within the state.

As of Monday, the Court hadn’t announced if it would take the Elane Photography case, which it considered behind closed doors last Friday. It is seen as an important test of religious rights and public accommodations law.

The case started in 2006, when Vanessa Willock of Albuquerque  contacted Elane Photography to ask whether the business would take pictures of her commitment ceremony to another woman.   Elane Photography said it would only take photos of “traditional weddings,” and turned away the business.


Later, the couple hired a different studio, and the commitment ceremony proceeded. Willock filed a discrimination complaint under New Mexico law, which protects people against discrimination based on sexual orientation. So far, the lower courts have ruled in favor Willock.

Elane Photography says it has freedom of speech rights, as a business with religious beliefs, that are affected by New Mexico’s public accommodations law.

To discuss the future of legislation that balances religious rights and personal freedoms, we welcome our two special guests.

Michael Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. Professor Dorf has written more than 70 law review articles and essays on constitutional law and related subjects.

Richard Epstein is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law and he is considered one of the most influential thinkers in legal academia.

Dorf and Epstein agree that the Elane Photography case could “blow up” anti-discrimination law, but they disagree if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

To listen to the full podcast, use the player below or click the following link: Download this episode (right click and save)

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