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Supreme Court Rejects Gay Wedding Photography Case

An appeal brought by a photographer who refused to take pictures of gay weddings was turned down by the Supreme Court on Monday morning. The court also refused to hear a challenge to a ban on campaign contributions by corporations, and allowed a district court case over U.S. surveillance to continue.

The photography case was brought by Elane Photography, a New Mexico business run by a husband-and-wife team who said their First Amendment rights allowed them to refuse service to a woman who had sought to hire the company to photograph her commitment ceremony with her partner.

Saying the ceremony resembled a traditional wedding, the business owners refused the work on the grounds that "they did not want to create images expressing messages about marriage that conflict with their religious beliefs," according to their petition for an appeal.

Their Supreme Court filing says the owners are artists who "create expression for paying customers," and thus cannot be compelled to create expression that goes against their beliefs. In 2008, New Mexico said the company "was guilty of discrimination" and should pay thousands in attorneys' fees, as NPR reported.

That ruling set the current request for a court case in motion. The Supreme Court rejected the photographers' case without comment. The issue of refusing services related to gay marriages has also arisen elsewhere, such as in Colorado, where a cake maker refused a couple's business, as NPR's Liz Halloran reported last December.

In another order issued Monday, the Supreme Court justices also refused to review a lower court's ruling that corporations cannot contribute directly to political candidates in federal elections.

From SCOTUSblog:

"The case of Iowa Right to Life v. Tooker had given the Justices the opportunity to decide whether to extend the Court's ruling last week striking down one limit on contributions to the corporate ban. The denial appeared to suggest that the Justices either found that the new case did not present the issue adequately, or they were not yet ready to consider extending the ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission to other donation restrictions."

The justices also said they wouldn't intervene in a case challenging the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's broad surveillance program. That case, Klayman v. Obama,is currently in both a district court and an appeals court, according to SCOTUSblog.

In a December ruling, a federal judge said that "the sweeping NSA collection of U.S. phone metadata constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment," as NPR's Carrie Johnson reported.

The judge also ordered the NSA to stop collecting data related to the plaintiff's cellphone — but he put that order on hold to allow for an expected appeal from the Justice Department. The plaintiff had sought to skip the appeals process and have the case heard at the highest level.

The Supreme Court's refusal to intervene in that case means it will proceed. As Carrie has said, the issue is expected to wind up before the high court's justices at some point.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.