ACLU's Distaste for Commerce

Walter Olson writes (emphasis added)

Elane Photography LLC v. Vanessa Willock is the case in which an Albuquerque, NM woman has (thus farsuccessfully) sued husband-and-wife photographers under New Mexico’s “public accommodations” discrimination law for their reluctance to shoot photos of her commitment ceremony to a female partner. One of the most dismaying elements of the case is that the American Civil Liberties Union has taken the anti-liberty side. Adam Liptak in the NYT:

I asked Louise Melling, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, which has a distinguished history of championing free speech, how the group had evaluated the case.

Ms. Melling said the evaluation had required difficult choices. Photography is expression protected by the Constitution, she said, and Ms. [Elane] Huguenin acted from “heartfelt convictions.”

But the equal treatment of gay couples is more important than the free speech rights of commercial photographers, she said, explaining why the A.C.L.U. filed a brief in the New Mexico Supreme Court supporting the couple.

Earlier, Olson made the useful point that large organizations like the ACLU are not monolithic -- they have internal conflicts on issues like this.  But based on my interactions with the ACLU, I believe the key word is in bold:  "commercial".   For many at the ACLU, the fact that an activity is commercial or for money voids or cancels out any rights one has.  Property rights or rights exercised in the conduct of commerce tend to always come last (if at all) at the ACLU.  Which is why I donate every year to the IJ, the organization the ACLU should have been if they had not been founded by Stalinists.  Update:  That is unfair.  It's like criticizing someone because of what his father did or believed.  Many organizations move beyond their original founder's legacy.  But it is never-the-less undeniable that -- at best -- the ACLU has no interest in property rights or commercial freedoms.


  1. eddie:

    You made the wrong correction.

    You should have crossed out "founded by" and inserted "currently staffed by" Stalinists.

  2. roystgnr:

    "IJ" == "Institute for Justice"?

  3. MingoV:

    The ACLU has been on both sides of eminent domain issues, and its most recent actions have mostly favored governments. It completely ignores second amendment issues: it doesn't consider gun ownership to be related to civil liberties.

  4. jdgalt:

    IJ is a good alternative, but not the only one. Check out too.

  5. mesocyclone:

    The ACLU, on average, has been anti-liberty for decades.

    Also, the New Mexico case is a good example of the dangers of institutionalizing "anti-bias" rules regarding, in this case, gays. Since we don't have a Libertarian government, this always results in an overall reduction of liberty. It's my primary reason for opposing a governmental institution of gay marriage (as opposed to private marriage of whatever sort).

  6. Zachriel:

    It's the same with anti-discrimination laws concerning race or religion. It only applies to public accommodations, such as commercial enterprises. People are free to associate, or not associate, in private clubs or organizations.

  7. Mercury:

    This isn’t about property rights or commerce it’s plain-old, rock-paper-scissors identity
    politics. In this case the social/legal clout of lesbians trumps that of
    whatever group the photographers belong to. Can we now expect photographers of certain religious persuasions to be punished for refusing to photograph Tea Party pig roasts? I doubt it.

    In any case I don’t see how two private parties contracting for a service to be delivered
    at an exclusive, private event is quite the same thing as “public accommodation”
    at a lunch counter.

    Much of this “identity” business seems to be an effort to
    transfer more of the set of things you do to the more legally protected zone of
    the set of things you are. This approach seems ass-backwards and a set-up for
    all kinds of abuse. Your status as a human being should be the only qualification necessary for equal treatment under the law. I know this ideal hasn’t always been fairly applied in practice
    but it should still be the goal.

  8. fotini901:

    So should it be legal for restaurants to refuse to serve black people? I am genuinely asking with no trolling implied. Is that what you're saying?