Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Case Not Worthy of the Court

Have you heard about this one?  I noticed it because I have owned a small business and I am a photographer, although I am not a professional in the sense that the defendant in this case is.

Briefly, here's what happened.  A husband and wife own a photography business in Alberquerque, New Mexico.  They make a living by doing portraits, photographing weddings, reunions, parties, all the normal activities that non-commercial photographers do.  They received an email requesting their services at a same-sex commitment ceremony.  They declined the job, citing their religious belief that a marriage was between one woman and one man.  The photography studio was sued for discrimination and lost.  The case has been appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

You can follow this case on the Scotus blog, so I won't go into the legal arguments presented by the two sides.  I simply want to express my feelings, whether or not the court eventually agrees with me or not.

First, I believe that a photographer is an artist and the product she creates is a combination of skills learned and practiced over years, and an artistic vision that is hers alone.  Now I am not speaking about the "school" pictures that are taken by the millions every year where every child sits in the same chair, in front of the same backdrop, and the photos are processed by a machine.  In this case, the photographer builds a reputation over time, showing their unique approach, their skill with photography equipment, and their mastery of computer programs used in their craft.  You only have to search "Wedding Photographer" on Google Images to see how different one wedding photographer is from another.  This reputation is important in growing and maintaining their business.  It seems that here in the US, a photography studio should be able to pick and choose jobs that will enhance that reputation.

Whether the Court says yes or no, if this photographer is coerced into taking a job that she doesn't believe in, I doubt that the pictures will be of the same quality as others she has done.  Some may be over-exposed, others may have busy, distracting backgrounds, one or more of the subjects may have been caught yawning, all kinds of things can happen.  Or, more simply, the photographer may take only 30 shots instead of the usual 100.

If I were the couple wanting photographs of my ceremony, I certainly would not want to hire someone who didn't want the job.  I would want to work with a photographer who could put their heart into their work and celebrate with us.  It's sad when an occasion that's meant to be joyous ends up being a lawsuit.

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