Is a wedding chapel “a place of public accommodation” that can’t turn away same-sex couples wanting to wed? What if the chapel is run by two ordained ministers, like the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho? Eugene Volokh writes:
“I find it hard to see a compelling government interest in barring sexual orientation discrimination by ministers officiating in a chapel. Whatever interests there may be in equal access to jobs, to education, or even in most public accommodations, I don’t see how there would be a “compelling” government interest in preventing discrimination in the provision of ceremonies, especially ceremonies conducted by ministers in chapels.
What if the wedding chapel originally advertised it performed civil as well as religious ceremonies? But now states “ordained ministers will marry you using a traditional, religious ceremony”?
LGBT activists of a progressive bent are making much of the fact that the Hitching Post changed its services following the legalization of same-sex marriage in Idaho. To my way of thinking, it makes no difference. People should be free to marry, including same-sex couples, and the government should not be forcing businesses owners, whether they be ministers or not, to perform services for same-sex weddings. But I’d add with Volokh, “especially ceremonies conducted by ministers in chapels.”
More. An evangelical gay man on why he’s raising money for the defense of Portland-based Christian bakery owners who refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding. I don’t share his view that, in this case, “a pastry is not moral approval of a religious ceremony.” Would requiring an anesthesiologist to perform his services at an abortion be ok because he’s not actually killing the fetus? (No, abortions and weddings are not the same thing, but the principle of not compelling behavior that violates religious faith is).
However, raising the defense money as an act of love is a nice gesture.
Furthermore. Walter Olson shares his take at Overlawyered.com. It’s a tangled web with much mischief on the right in an effort to create religious-liberty panic. But some on the left would have no qualms with forcing the ministers to perform their marriage (a shotgun wedding, perhaps?), so no side is looking especially good in all this.
Another Update. Resolution:
The city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, said a for-profit wedding chapel owned by two ministers doesn’t have to perform same-sex marriages. … Initially, the city said its anti-discrimination law did apply to the Hitching Post, since it is a commercial business. Earlier this week, Coeur d’Alene city attorney Mike Gridley sent a letter to the Knapps’ attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom saying the Hitching Post would have to become a not-for-profit to be exempt. But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit.
If this looks like a “win” for the anti-gay rightists, it’s only because of over-reach by the city on behalf of its anti-discrimination statute. Deciding to force conservative evangelicals (especially, you know, ordained ministers) to engage in behavior supporting same-sex marriage (especially, you know, performing marriage ceremonies) makes supporters of LGBT legal equality look like modern-day Robespierres.
But you can see the thinking motivating the city and LGBT activists: If we can force religiously conservative bakers and photographers to service gay weddings or be put out of business, why not?
More still. Kathy Trautvetter and Diane DiGeloromo, the lesbian owners of BMP T-shirts, are speaking up on behalf of a conservative Christian t-shirt maker who ran afoul of the state (and progressive LGBT activists) when he declined to print shirts for a gay pride festival that he believed compromised his religious values. DiGeloromo said:
“We feel this really isn’t a gay or straight issue. This is a human issue. No one really should be forced to do something against what they believe in. It’s as simple as that, and we feel likewise. If we were approached by an organization such as the Westboro Baptist Church, I highly doubt we would be doing business with them.”
Seems simple enough.