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Justices decline case on gay rights

Woman refused to offer services

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear closely watched cases on gay rights, campaign finance, and lethal injections. As is their custom, the justices gave no reasons for turning down the appeals.

The gay rights case was an appeal from a wedding photographer in New Mexico who asserted a constitutional right to refuse to provide her services to gay and lesbian couples.

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The issue was broadly similar to one argued before the court last month, over whether companies may refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraception on religious grounds. But the New Mexico case was based not on an assertion of religious liberty but on one of free speech.

The photographer, Elaine Huguenin, objected to a New Mexico law prohibiting businesses open to the public from discriminating against gay people. She said that requiring her to photograph same-sex weddings violated her First Amendment rights because she was forced to say something she did not believe.

She rejected a request from a lesbian couple, Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth, to document their commitment ceremony. The women, who hired another photographer, filed a discrimination complaint against Huguenin’s studio, Elane Photography.

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled for the couple, saying Huguenin’s “services can be regulated, even though those services include artistic and creative work.” Laws banning discrimination, the court said, apply to “creative or expressive professions.”

Justice Richard C. Bosson issued an ambivalent concurrence expressing sympathy for Huguenin and her husband.

“The Huguenins are not trying to prohibit anyone from marrying,” he wrote. “They only want to be left alone to conduct their photography business in a manner consistent with their moral convictions.” Instead, they “are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” he added.

“Though the rule of law requires it,” Bosson wrote, “the result is sobering.”

In other action Monday:

 The justices declined to hear a campaign finance case challenging an Iowa law that bans contributions from corporations but allows them from unions. The case was brought by James Bopp Jr., one of the lawyers on the winning side Wednesday in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a major campaign finance case.

The McCutcheon decision struck down aggregate contribution limits in federal elections. In the Iowa case, Bopp challenged the law there on two grounds. He said distinguishing between corporations and unions violated equal protection principles. In any event, he added, “banning corporate political contributions violates the First Amendment.”

 The justice declined to hear two cases concerning whether death row inmates have a constitutional right to know what chemicals states plan to use to execute them.

Drug shortages and boycotts have caused prisons to scramble to locate lethal chemicals, raising what opponents of the death penalty say is the possibility of executions so painful that they violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

One case concerned Christopher Sepulvado, who was convicted of killing his 6-year-old stepson. His lawyers asked the Supreme Court to decide whether due process “entitles a condemned inmate with timely notice of the method by which he will be executed.”

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