Freedoms of expression and religion the subject of court cases on homosexuality
Decisions regarding free expression, religion and the state have come to the foreground as complications surrounding the first amendment arise with homosexuality.
Freedom of expression is typically one of the more revered rights of American citizens, but as legislation changes, the roles of freedom of religion and expression are becoming more complicated. This is especially true when it comes to the case of homosexuality. While state governments have done more to welcome the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered community, some religious beliefs conflict with the marriage of these couples. This has become the subject of controversy for a number of individuals as a result.
According to the New York Times, this issue has emerged in the U.S. Supreme Court recently, after an incident in New Mexico. The news source reported that in New Mexico it is illegal to open a business and discriminate against gay people.
Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth, a lesbian couple, asked Elaine Huguenin, a photographer operating in the state to document their commitment ceremony, but she refused to because she did not wish to portray same-sex weddings. However, she said that she would have offered to a do a portrait for them.
Huguenin's reasoning is that it would have violated her right to free speech to cover something that went against her religion. Following her refusal, the couple filed a discrimination complaint against the studio, Elane Photography, which has subsequently gone to multiple levels of court and lost.
Many free speech advocates weighed in on the subject. The American Civil Liberties Union for instance, which has defended groups such as the Ku Klux Klan in honor of their free speech rights in the past, has come out in support of the couple, according to the news source, likening the refusal of their service to the act of putting a sign that read "Heterosexual Couples Only."
On the side of Huguenin, the argument is that she should not be forced to portray same-sex weddings as a celebration. The lawyer representing her argued that the business of commercial photography is an inherently expressive enterprise meaning that her expression would be limited in being forced to convey the wedding as such.
In New Jersey, a bill was signed into law that ruled state licensed professional counselors could not treat children and teens with gay-conversion therapy, according to Courthouse News. Lawmakers felt that identifying as LGBT does not qualify as a mental illness or shortcoming, and such practices have been found to cause psychological harm and health risks to minor who are subject to this kind of treatment, thereby making such therapy run counter to the intentions of therapy.
The news source noted that after the law passed two therapists filed a complaint with the law because they felt that it went against their patients first amendment right to "prioritize their religious morals." Two parents filed a similar suit against the law fearing that it may prohibit their son from being able to overcome his struggles with gender identity.
The news source noted that the counselors complaint was fully dismissed by U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson.
These cases present the complexities that many have found when it comes to these new laws and whether or not they go against their religious beliefs. The therapists' complaints were filed in cooperation with a Christian counselors organization, while the Huguenin case was also in regard to her religious beliefs, though the argument was based in her right to free speech.
Going forward it should be interesting to see how the courts continue to rule when it comes to these issues. When it comes to the first amendment the intricacies of homosexuality were not likely considered, meaning that cases such as these will likely continue to surface with the passing of new laws that affirm one's right to express him or herself as LGBT.