Idaho City Backs Down In Dispute With Ministers Over Same-Sex Marriage

The City of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho will not force two Christian ministers to open their wedding chapel business to same-sex wedding ceremonies.

church-state-street-signs

Last week, I noted that a couple in Coeur d.Alene, Idaho had filed a suit against the city due to threats from the city that it would apply the city’s anti-discrimination law to them and their business, a wedding chapel, if they refused to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies now that such marriages are legal under Idaho law. As I said at the time, it appeared that the couple had a strong case based on the facts presented in the case, and the post generated a long and contentious comment thread. Now, it appears that the case is over as Boise State Public Radio’s Jessica Robinson is reporting that the City Attorney for Coeur D’Alene has announced that it will not pursue any case against either the Knapps or their business for refusal to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies:

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.

The city has been embroiled in controversy ever since the owners of the Hitching Post sued the city. They say a city anti-discrimination law threatened to force them to marry same-sex couples now that gay marriage is legal in Idaho.

The story lit up conservative and gay-rights blogs. Wedding chapel owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp said they feared jail time or fines if they declined marriage services to a same-sex couple.

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.

In addition, the organization that helped draft the city’s anti-discrimination law, the  Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, said the following about the the case in a letter to the city:

As the initiator of the proposed ordinance beginning on February 4, 2013, we were and continue to be committed to its purpose and enforcement in preventing discrimination that targets this particular minority in our community. We commend the Coeur d’Alene City Council for meeting their constitutional and moral responsibilities on June 4, 2013 with the adoption of this ordinance removing the  second-class status of this sexual minority.
It has always been our position that the ordinance would exempt religious institutions recognizing their First Amendment rights when it comes to establishing facilities or sanctuaries where they conduct religious services, practice their faith, study and advocate their religious tenants, hire and supervise the employees for example at their church, temple, synagogue, or mosque. They are also free to establish and operate a religious school for their families. We respect and defend  those religious freedoms.
Having said that, we oppose the argument that one can use one’s religious beliefs to discriminate against, for example a sexual minority, in the public secular arena in housing, businesses/employment and public accommodations. For government to allow such exceptions based on religious grounds, would literally open the door to all forms of discrimination in violation of the U. S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.
We find the question of the Hitching Post Chapel and the city ordinance a more complex question. That being the case, we have spent the past few days in discussion with some prominent national organizations and constitutional lawyers.

The facts seem to be that there are two ordained ministers solely providing a service limited to wedding ceremonies at the Hitching Post Chapel.

With these facts in mind, we received the following opinion and advice from our constitutional experts:

“When they are performing a religious activity like marrying people, ministers performing marriages. So, if the only service offered is a religious wedding ceremony performed by a minister, then the law would not apply. But that reasonable exception doesn’t change the general rule that businesses that open their doors to the public to provide services, including services related to weddings, cannot turn people away just because of who they are.”

Based upon these facts and findings, we believe the City of Coeur d’Alene Anti-Discrimination Ordinance due to the religious exemption is not at issue and is not impacted regarding performing weddings by ordained ministers at the Hitching Post Chapel in Coeur d’Alene.have the right to choose which marriages they will solemnize. That’s why we don’t think  the public accommodation law applies to ministers making choices about

This news came after several developments in the case that arguably favored both sides of the argument and, to some extent at least, cast some doubt on the legal claims that were raised in the Complaint filed on behalf of the Knapps. For example as Walter Olson noted on his blog Overlawyered, it appears that the Knapps had only recently organized the Hitching Post as a Limited Liability Company with an explicitly religious mission and, around the same time, had removed from the business’s website language indicating that they performed both religious and non-religious wedding ceremonies. To no small degree, of course, this news cuts into the argument that the Complaint makes that the business, although being a for-profit operation, had an exclusively religious mission and made it appear as if the Knapps had taken steps to strengthen their case against the city prior to filing the suit. If that was the case, though, it was a move that wasn’t exactly done in the quietest manner possible. If all of this was done to help strentghen a lawsuit that they had been planning for some time, then it would have at least looked better had it been done months ago, after Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban was initially struck down by a Federal District Court Judge for example, rather than barely a month before the lawsuit was filed. Additionally, I’m not certain that the fact that such changes were made would have been dispositive in the case that the Knapps had filed. As the sole owners of the business, they are free to change their business plans and policies at any time, and while the timing of the change would have arguably gone to their credibility at trial, in and of itself it’s unlikely that it would have defeated their claim.

The other major development in the case came on Wednesday when the City Attorney said in a letter that it was his position that even the reorganized Hitching Post would still be covered by the city’s anti-discrimination law, because the exemption in the law only applies, in his legal opinion, to not-for-profit religious corporations. Importantly, the letter is silent as to the City’s position regarding Mr. and Mrs. Knapp and whether they personally would be required to perform ceremonies under the law or whether they would simply be required to make their facilities and its amenities available to such ceremonies performed by outside officiants. As I noted in my initial post on this subject, it strikes me that this is an important distinction because, regardless of what one thinks about whether or not The Hitching Post, L.L.C. has rights under the First Amendment or Idaho’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the idea of requiring an ordained minister to perform even a non-religious ceremony would violate the law notwithstanding the business’s for-profit status. Additionally, as Eugene Volokh observed, this interpretation of the law raised some serious questions:

Under the same logic, a minister who officiated at weddings on the side, for a fee, could also be required to conduct same-sex ceremonies. The particular Coeur d’Alene ordinance might not apply to such an itinerant officiant, since it covers only “place[s],” and that might be limited to brick-and-mortar establishments; but similar ordinances in other places cover any “establishment,” and if a wedding photography service is an “establishment” then a minister who routinely takes officiating commissions would be covered as well.

This strikes me as inconsistent with the Free Speech Clause and the Idaho RFRA, for the reasons I mentioned in my earlier post. Let me focus here on the Free Speech Clause: The Supreme Court held, in upholding a person’s right to tape over a slogan on a license plate, that,

[T]he proposition that the right of freedom of thought protected by the First Amendment against state action includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all. See Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 633-634 (1943) [the case securing a right not to salute the flag -EV]. A system which secures the right to proselytize religious, political, and ideological causes must also guarantee the concomitant right to decline to foster such concepts. The right to speak and the right to refrain from speaking are complementary components of the broader concept of “individual freedom of mind.” This is illustrated by the recent case of Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 (1974), where we held unconstitutional a Florida statute placing an affirmative duty upon newspapers to publish the replies of political candidates whom they had criticized.

The same, I think, applies here. The First Amendment protects the right to speak the words in a wedding ceremony — words that have deep meaning to many officiants as well as to the parties — and the right to refrain from speaking the words.

Reason’s Scott Shackelford makes a similar point, and also points out what this case is distinguishable from those involving other for-profit businesses that are generally open to the public:

The reasons why the Knapps don’t want to marry any couple and their status as a profit or a non-profit or whether they also offered civil ceremonies should not matter. The only thing that should matter is that they didn’t want to marry a couple for whatever reason they declared.

Why? Because the idea that a wedding ceremony is a public accommodation is absolutely absurd. Is there a service that is any less of a public accommodation than an actual wedding ceremony? The whole idea of a public accommodation laws (and don’t read this as a general endorsement) is that the identity of the customer is irrelevant to the business transaction. A business operator’s opinions on race or religion should have no reason to come into play when selling somebody gum or a hamburger or a ticket to see a movie. But a wedding is literally hiring somebody to tell you that you and your partner are awesome and are going to be happy and to enjoy life. A wedding ceremony is literally speech. The actual marriage certification process with the state is something else entirely. Marriage is a right. A wedding ceremony is not.

Shackelford and Volokh are largely correct, of course. Even accepting the legitimacy of public accommodation laws and the idea that the idea of expanding them to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation, there is something unique and different about a wedding ceremony conducted by an ordained minister. Even if that ceremony is not religious in nature in and of itself, the fact that it is being performed by a minister means that the law needs to take into consideration the religious beliefs of the individuals that would be impacted by it. After all, as Volokh notes, to interpret it otherwise would mean that any minister who performs a ceremony for a small stipend would potentially be covered by such a law, and that would clearly run afoul of both the Idaho version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which mirrors the Federal Law at issue in the Hobby Lobby case, and the First Amendment itself. In either case, forcing the minister to perform the ceremony notwithstanding any doctrinal objections they may have to do so would impose a substantial burden on their religious liberty More importantly, such compulsion would not be accomplishing the state’s goal of promoting equal access to a public accommodation in the least intrusive means possible. In fact, such compulsion would be highly intrusive, and the fact that there are other ministers, as well as non-ministers who are authorized by law to perform civil ceremonies would mean that there would be not be any rational reason to allow the state to force a minister to do something that violates their religious beliefs.

This would seem to be the end of this case. There are some reports that at least one couple has complained about the Hitching Post’s policies, however the law at issue her does not provide for a private cause of action and, since the city is saying they are not going to pursue any action against either the Knapps or the Hitching Post, there doesn’t appear to be anything further to say about this particular case. That being said, this is hardly the end of this particular issue. We have already seen, in states such as New Mexico, Colorado, and New York, examples of businesses owner by people who claimed to have a religious objection to same-sex marriage facing charges under an anti-discrimination law. Some of those cases, it strikes me, may be stronger than others, For example, the case involving the New Mexico photographer raised First Amendment issues that were not addressed in any of the litigation but which seem to me to be quite strong. By contrast, the claims of a baker, florist, or someone who rents out their property for weddings or receptions without regard to the religious affiliation. That being said, with same-sex marriage now legal in a majority of the states, and the rest of the country likely soon to follow, these are issues that are likely to be making their way through the court system, and become a point of contention politically, for some time to come.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Religion, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Pearce says:

    In order to back down, you first must step up. Considering the city was contemplating taking no action whatsoever against these people, I think it’s safe to say we all got played by a couple of Evangelical activists and their fake issue.

  2. James Pearce says:

    And, you know, it’s sad that libertarians just cannot force themselves out of their tiny little ideological box:

    The reasons why the Knapps don’t want to marry any couple and their status as a profit or a non-profit or whether they also offered civil ceremonies should not matter.

    Seriously? The Knapp argument isn’t that their reasons should not matter. The argument is that those reasons should be the ONLY thing that matters.

    The Knapps get it. Why don’t the libertarians?

  3. @James Pearce:

    The position that the City of Coeur d’Alene took prior to reversing itself on Friday would tend to disagree with your assertion that there was not a “back down.”

  4. @James Pearce:

    My point is that, as a matter of law under the RFRA, those things don’t matter

  5. gVOR08 says:

    They used to offer civil services? They set up as an LLC and wrote all their supposedly longstanding religious principles into an Operating Agreement dated Oct 6 this year? And the website offered non-Christian religious services until it was scrubbed on Oct 9?! Sure sounds like a couple of holy roller activists trying to create a problem only so they could sue. And the city sensibly replied, “Meh.” Dog bites man story.

  6. James Pearce says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I certainly don’t expect this kind of context from Volokh, but the letter from the city attorney is clearly a response to a lawsuit filed by the Knapps before the city even contemplated taking action. It describes what the city might do if they were to receive a hypothetical complaint, which they never received.

    The letter makes clear that the city’s position did not change. The facts of the case changed.

    From the letter:

    However it now appears that on or about October 6,2014 they filed with the Idaho Secretary of State as a religious corporalion. These are new flacts. [f they are operating as a legitimate not-for- profit religious corporation then they are exempt from the ordinance like any other church or religious association.

    Face it, you got suckered, you and Volokh and Reason and all the other libertarians out there who are wedded (sorry) to the idea that any constraints on religious people is an abridgement of religious freedom. High five.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    Wow…a couple if Christians have prevailed in their quest to hate freely.
    Republicanists should be ecstatic.

  8. @James Pearce:

    As I said in the post, when and how they may have changed the legal status of their business is a relevant fact that could possibly have been relevant if litigation had gone forward. In my opinion, though, it would not have defeated a potential claim under the RFRA nor would it have defeated their effort to get a TRO preventing the City from enforcing the law against them and The Hitching Post.

    That’s based on the law, not what I think the right policy is. As I have said before, I have serious questions about whether the RFRA, whether at the state or Federal levels, is even Constitutional, but that is a separate issue from whether or not, under the law as it exists today they were asserting a claim that had a good chance of succeeding. That’s a legal opinion, not an assertion that I think their position is morally correct.

  9. David Weintraub says:

    The purpose and timing of this frivolous lawsuit (frivolous because the Hitching Post was already a religious corporation and therefore exempt at the time it was filed) becomes clear when you consider this:

    “One of the key arguments against the Idaho Constitution’s defense of traditional marriage has been that redefining it to include same-sex couples would not harm anyone. But the Hitching Post example shows the fallacy of that position,” Gov. Butch Otter (R) said in a statement.

    Anti-marriage equality activists deceptively fabricated a “harm” to cite in their appeal, since no actual harm exists.

  10. @David Weintraub:

    Which will be rejected by the 9th Circuit and SCOTUS just as the last application for a stay was rejected even if your assertion is true.

  11. Davebo says:

    As I said in the post, when and how they may have changed the legal status of their business is a relevant fact that could possibly have been relevant if litigation had gone forward. In my opinion, though, it would not have defeated a potential claim under the RFRA nor would it have defeated their effort to get a TRO preventing the City from enforcing the law against them and The Hitching Post.

    So other words, given your opinion about this case that is based on facts that were never in play to begin with, had those facts been considered, though they would never have been considered as, again, the were never facts at all, the city would have been shutdown due to RFRA.

    Gotcha Doug.

    Obviously the Knapps aren’t the only one attempting to use this for purely political purposes.

  12. Grewgills says:

    If they had a religious objection to interracial marriages or marriages of anyone other than one specific ethnicity would they be legal in the same way that this discrimination is illegal? That underlying justification is exactly the same.

  13. legion says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The position the city took prior to this was based on the assumption that The Hitching Post was still a business. Prior to the law taking effect – and prior to this becoming a news story – the owners reorganized their company to be a religious entity.

    In other words, they knew the law would affect them, they rebuilt their for-profit company back into an explicitly-exempt religious organization, and then they still made a bunch of noise about being forced to follow the law when they knew they would not. And once the paperwork caught up to the city attorney, he agreed with that.

    To summarize, this was a skeezy publicity stunt by the chapel owners from day one. I’m sure Republican Jesus approves.

  14. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Shockingly, when there’s a clash between the rights of a minority and the rights of a member of the majority, all the libertarians flock to defend the rights of the majority member.

  15. Trumwill says:

    I much prefer the “The Knapps were extremely dishonest because of course nobody was going to require them to perform this ceremony to stay in business” narrative to “The Knapps should totally be required to do this to stay in business” one.

  16. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce: In order to back down, you first must step up. Considering the city was contemplating taking no action whatsoever against these people, I think it’s safe to say we all got played by a couple of Evangelical activists and their fake issue.

    The law was passed. That’s an action by itself. One can never assume that a law will not be enforced.

    And your phrasing — “was contemplating taking no action whatsoever” — gives the implication that “taking action” was the default, and they were considering not enforcing the new law.

  17. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @David Weintraub: “One of the key arguments against the Idaho Constitution’s defense of traditional marriage has been that redefining it to include same-sex couples would not harm anyone. But the Hitching Post example shows the fallacy of that position,” Gov. Butch Otter (R) said in a statement.

    I have absolutely nothing to say to your comment, but I just had to point out how delightful it is that Idaho’s governor is named “Butch Otter.”

    “Butch Beaver” would have been a tad too salacious in the context of this particular topic, but “Butch Otter” is just such a wonderfully perfect name for an Idahoan…

  18. James Pearce says:

    @Trumwill: Narrative?

    Speaking of narratives, here’s Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council: ““The day liberals promised would never come is already here.”

    Liberals promised some right-wing Christians would turn out to be a bunch of liars?

    My favorite though was Butch Otter, governor of Idaho and possessor of a very good drag name:

    “One of the key arguments against the Idaho Constitution’s defense of traditional marriage has been that redefining it to include same-sex couples would not harm anyone. But the Hitching Post example shows the fallacy of that position.”

    Well, the Hitching Post shows a fallacy of a position, alright.

    It also shows the extent to which Libertarians can be fooled when you raise the (false) specter of government force.

  19. Trumwill says:

    @James Pearce: Yes. Narrative. An account or interpretation of events.

    I have no use for the FRC and I believe Butch Otter is wrong on gay marriage.

    @Jenos Idanian #13: This was a law passed before gay marriage was really on the radar. While it doesn’t apply here it does (rightfully) apply to hotels, apartments, restaurants, etc.

  20. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    And your phrasing — “was contemplating taking no action whatsoever” — gives the implication that “taking action” was the default, and they were considering not enforcing the new law.

    No, Jenos. Let me explain what “contemplating taking no action whatsoever” means.

    When the Knapps claimed they were going to get 180 years in jail, the city was like, “Huh, I didn’t realize we were going to jail these guys.”

  21. James Pearce says:

    @Trumwill:

    I have no use for the FRC and I believe Butch Otter is wrong on gay marriage.

    Then why buy into their narrative?

    Why sneer at the “narrative” that says secular enterprises should not discriminate against gays for religious reasons?

  22. Trumwill says:

    @James Pearce: I don’t let the fact that they good a particular position prevent me from holding it, even if I disagree with them strongly about gay marriage and Anti-discrimination law more generally. My agreement with them is actually quite narrow, pertaining specifically to whether ministers should be required to perform gay marriages by reason of for-profit business structure.

  23. James Pearce says:

    @Trumwill:

    My agreement with them is actually quite narrow, pertaining specifically to whether ministers should be required to perform gay marriages by reason of for-profit business structure.

    Do you find any comfort in how utterly unlikely it is that any minister in this country will be required to perform a gay marriage?

    They may be required to pay a fine or to change their corporate structure, but to be forced to marry two gay people against their will? That should not have passed the smell test, Will.

  24. Davebo says:

    My agreement with them is actually quite narrow, pertaining specifically to whether ministers should be required to perform gay marriages by reason of for-profit business structure.

    Ministers don’t perform “for-profit” marriages. So I really don’t see your issue here.

    By your reasoning if a hotel owner was also an ordained minister he should be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals in renting rooms.

  25. Trumwill says:

    @James Pearce: Not forced at gunpoint. But saying “If you want to operate a viable for-profit business, you have to do this” (the same way we might tell a hotel owner) is still on the other side of the “that’s okay” line (and that’s what this was ostensibly about). I said last week that shouldn’t (and likely wouldn’t) fly with weddings, but it does seem to be what a lot of people want.

    @Davebo: I don’t consider marriage ceremonies and hotel room rentals to be equivalent.

  26. Grewgills says:

    @Trumwill:
    Should they be required to perform interracial marriages or marriages of ethnicities they don’t like if they have a religious objection?

  27. al-Ameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    Considering the city was contemplating taking no action whatsoever against these people, I think it’s safe to say we all got played by a couple of Evangelical activists and their fake issue.

    Exactly.

  28. Trumwill says:

    I’m still unclear as to which of these is true:

    1) The notion that the government would threaten the Chapel businesses of ministers that refuse to marry gays is ridiculous and it’s dumb that people are worried about it.

    Or

    2) The government should go after the Chapel businesses of ministers that refuse to marry gay couples.

  29. James Pearce says:

    @Trumwill:

    But saying “If you want to operate a viable for-profit business, you have to do this” (the same way we might tell a hotel owner) is still on the other side of the “that’s okay” line

    I have no problems telling people “If you want to operate a viable for-profit business, you have to do this.”

    Clean your scissors and store your combs in alcohol. Pick up the mouse droppings under the lunch counter. Stop selling counterfeit merchandise. Pay your employees for overtime. Get a license. Get insurance. No, you can’t use child labor. Yes, your employees must have documentation. And speaking of documents, hang onto them for 7 years, you know, tax purposes.

    “No, you can’t discriminate against gay people” is of a similar quality.

  30. anjin-san says:

    @Trumwill:

    Chapel businesses of ministers

    I have some trouble reconciling “minister” with “for profit business.”

    Matthew 6:24

    “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

  31. Trumwill says:

    @James Pearce: I agree when it comes to most business ventures, but when it comes to ministers and marriage, I take the same view as Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, and the city in question.

    That’s neither here nor there, though.

    What I find… odd… is that you seem to be mocking conservatives for fearing that the government would target pastors (via their business) for refusing to marry gay couples… while advocating that the government target pastors (via their business) who refuse to marry gay couples.

    Even if they didn’t actually go after the Knapps, and/or weren’t going to, seems that’s the goal of some of those trying to paint this whole thing as a non-issue.

  32. James Pearce says:

    @Trumwill:

    Even if they didn’t actually go after the Knapps, and/or weren’t going to, seems that’s the goal of some of those trying to paint this whole thing as a non-issue.

    Let me be clear. My goal is to end anti-gay discrimination in all of its forms.

    And yes, that means I’m not into setting aside safe havens where it can flourish and emanate like sewer gas, poisoning our society.

    I do not think the government should “target” pastors, but then again, I also don’t think that’s an accurate description of what’s happening here. What’s happening here is that anti-gay discrimination is swiftly becoming verboten, and these people still want to keep doing it.

    From a “leave me alone” point of view, I can see how that would be a problem. But I also don’t think that’s the proper way to see this. The Knapps don’t want to be left alone. They want to join the damn circus.

    Phil Robertson, Cliven Bundy, George Zimmerman. They want to be the next hero/victim in the culture war, martyred for the cause. You know they’re expecting rubes from all over to visit them, “We heard y’all stuck up against the homosexshul agenda. Can I buy you a beer?”

    I see where you’re coming from with this, but the fears are overblown, and the Knapps so…I don’t know. After having lived with the anti-gay stuff my whole life (my Mom is gay) and seeing the progress now and seeing the circus, the birthers and the Tea Party and the parade of clowns, I’m just disgusted by it.

    Just give it a rest already. Wedding companies, especially religious ones, don’t need to cater to gay people if they don’t want to, but do they have to be such dicks about it?

  33. Grewgills says:

    @Trumwill:
    The government should respond to any business that discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, or sexuality. However, a majority in our society have decided that religious institutions are more important than secular institutions and deserve to be allowed to discriminate as long as they can point to something in a religious book and say this is why. So, yes, their fears are wildly overblown even though I wish they weren’t.

  34. Will Truman says:

    @James Pearce: I certainly can’t fault you your anger, particularly at the anti-gay bigots. And whatever our disagreements on the micro-issue, I couldn’t agree more with your “do they have to be dicks about it?” question. I’m hoping that everything about the anti-gay movement becomes anachronistic even faster than it has over the last ten years.

  35. Will Truman says:

    Tangential, but I bet residents of Idaho City is probably extremely annoyed by all of this and saying “Leave us out this!”

  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce: Let me be clear. My goal is to end anti-gay discrimination in all of its forms.

    And yes, that means I’m not into setting aside safe havens where it can flourish and emanate like sewer gas, poisoning our society.

    Why does that sound so familiar?

    William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

    Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

    William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

    Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

  37. Tyrell says:

    This is a business that sells weddings. It is not a real church. It uses a church set and props to simulate a church wedding. So let’s make that clear.
    Real churches have a set procedure that prospective couples for marriage must go through. First, the pastor and sometimes the leadership team will interview the couple. Then they will attend a series of special classes in which they will learn about the Biblical teachings of marriage. After that the pastor will recommend or deny their request. Then the leadership team will approve or disapprove. After that, the plans for the wedding are made and these will involve the pastor, organist, and music director. Some stipulations that our and many churches have are: the use of secular music is not allowed in the church (no hip hop or honky yonk junk), and alcoholic drinking is not allowed at any part of the wedding: rehearsal or the wedding.

  38. James Pearce says:

    @Will Truman:

    I certainly can’t fault you your anger, particularly at the anti-gay bigots.

    It’s not anger so much as it is weariness.

    And yes, I think cries of “Leave us out of this” soon follow where ever activists have tread.

  39. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Good one, but how is that anecdote even relevant?

    (Wrong interpretation, wrong context. Sorry, man.)

  40. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Trumwill:

    I’m still seeing the desire to conflate this business with some sort of pseudo-church, which it most certainly is not. You guys need to get past that.

    The operative factor here is the nature of the BUSINESS, not that of the people running the business.

    Going back to the example I noted in a different thread – my rabbi owns a bar.The fact that he is a rabbi does not somehow convert his secular business enterprise into being a religious enterprise.

    Same here: a secular business offers secular wedding ceremonies. It is not affiliated with any known denomination as a church. It does not hold regular religious ceremonies. It does not have parishioners. It does not collect tithes or offerings. It is, in fact, not a church.

    So – can the individual owners be forced to preside over wedding ceremonies with which they disagree? No. That would be a violation of the 1st Amendment. Can the BUSINESS be forced to offer its services to all irrespective of sexual orientation? Absolutely.

  41. Gustopher says:

    If we lived in a just world, the Pancake house Wedding Factory would not be able to discriminate, since it is a business open to the public.

    In a slightly less just world, they would have to document their intent to discriminate beforehand, stating who they are willing to serve and make customers sign clear agreements that they are no gay, atheist, pagan, Wiccan, etc. This way they could not hide their bigotry from customers who might be offended by it.

    Or actually become a church, rather than the IHOP of weddings.

    Alas, we do not live in a just world, and so need to go with what is legal instead. Legality has prevailed. Hurrah, I suppose.

  42. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    So the consensus seems to be “these people were paranoid for thinking that the law would actually be enforced against them in the way they said it would, but the law should be enforced that way?”

    Interesting…

  43. Trumwill says:

    @HarvardLaw92: At the end of the day, the situation was resolved to my satisfaction with the city and the architects of the anti-discrimination law agreeing (more or less) . So, to date, I’m not sure what I need to get past.

  44. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Trumwill: THIS situation was resolved amicably, which seems to have been the preordained logical outcome given that there was no real controversy and no complainants to begin with. It’s difficult to complain about being harmed by something that hasn’t happened to you yet. It certainly impacts standing, which is why I asserted that this would never see the inside of a courtroom.

    There will be other situations like this one. You can bet on it. ADF will make sure that there are, because they are not going to give up on pushing their agenda (which is what this entire brouhaha has been about from the beginning …)

  45. Trumwill says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Hopefully, the ADF will have to look really hard to find cases like this one, because marriage equality advocates won’t be in the habit of trying to make the argument you’re making, they’ll be making them in other types of cases where they seem more understandably applicable (marryin’ Elvii), or in cases more like this they don’t actually go anywhere.