Supreme Court Won't Hear Case Of Photographer Snubbing Gay Marriage, Which Is Great News

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: A flag flys outside the U.S. Supreme Court after it was announced that the court will allow a limited version of President Donald Trump's travel ban to take effect June 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court will consider the case of the president's power on immigration in the fall but in the meantime agreed to allow a limited ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
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The Supreme Court has denied the appeal of a New Mexico anti-gay marriage wedding photographer who was charged with violating the state's anti-discrimination laws. Elaine Huguenin, of Elane Photography, refused in 2013 to photograph a wedding between two women who sought out her services, on the grounds that doing so would violate her religious beliefs. The visibility of the case was consequential in spurring religious freedom bills in Republican-controlled statehouses like Arizona, Mississippi and Kansas.

The denial means the case was unable to net the four Justice votes necessary to move forward, which is notable, as the court's typically conservative majority is five men strong (all the women line up on the liberal side.) That they weren't interested in marshaling time or resources for another religious liberties case is understandable — maybe they've had enough of that lately.

It was just weeks ago, after all, that they heard arguments in the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Inc., pitting the federal government against the arts and crafts chain over the requirement for employer-based health insurance to feature coverage for contraception. 

Hobby Lobby is a Christian-owned business, and their leadership believes (erroneously, scientifically speaking) that certain forms of emergency contraception, such as Plan B, aren't meaningfully different from abortion. As such, they argue, they shouldn't have to tolerate playing any role in providing it to their female employees.

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Subsequent reporting, embarrassingly, has revealed that Hobby Lobby's 401(k) plans have holdings of about $73 million in companies which produce emergency contraceptives and IUDs, though it's safe to say they likely weren't aware of this.

For Huguenin, the denial brings to an end the long legal ordeal since she told the New Mexico couple that she only shot "traditional" weddings, not the kinds with two women taking the vows. The state's law on anti-discrimination forbids businesses to refuse service on grounds of religion, race, or sexual orientation. 

The movement her case played a role in sparking, however, is very much alive — a slew of state legislatures have considered new laws on religious freedom. Considering how vague and varied people's deeply-held religious beliefs can be, and how many minorities could stand to lose by them, that's a very big deal.

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