Gay Marriage

City Tells Idaho Wedding Chapel It Can Turn Away Gay Couples

|

They don't.
Hitching Post

No, you can't force a minister to marry you by invoking an anti-discrimination law. Or at least that's what the Idaho city of Coeur d'Alene has told the owners of the Hitching Post, who had organized a lawsuit against the city out of concern they would be required to marry gay couples. The story got national attention at the start of the week because of fears that the couple who owned the chapel, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, would be fined or even jailed if they refused to marry gay couples.

The city originally told the couple as much, because it's a for-profit business. But now the city is backing off and has determined the Knapps can say no. Unfortunately the reason is not because a wedding ceremony is not a right and nobody of any race, sexual orientation, or religion should be able to demand that somebody must bless (in any definition of the word) their relationship. Rather, the city's anti-discrimination ordinance doesn't specify that a business has to be a non-profit in order to claim a religious-based exemption from the law.  From Boise State Public Radio:

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.

"After we've looked at this some more, we have come to the conclusion they would be exempt from our ordinance because they are a religious corporation," Gridley explained.

Court filings show the Hitching Post reorganized earlier this month as a "religious corporation." In the paperwork, the owners describe their deeply held beliefs that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

An American Civil Liberties Union representative gave the decision his nod of approval as long as the business is a "religious corporation" and as long as they don't perform non-religious ceremonies and then refuse to serve same-sex couples.

The timing of the filings and various complexities of the organization of the Hitching Post as a business prompted some additional intrigue throughout the week. Walter Olson of the Cato Institute explained it all from a libertarian perspective in his Overlawyered blog here. I decided not to engage in discussing the intrigue further because, though the technical components may matter in a legal sense, from a philosophical perspective, it shouldn't make a difference. 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.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

46 responses to “City Tells Idaho Wedding Chapel It Can Turn Away Gay Couples

  1. “Dearly beloved…”

    What guy or gal hasn’t dreamed of hearing those words uttered through gritted teeth. But alas, no shotgun weddings for the poor suffering betrothed in Coeur d’Aline.

  2. Yes Scott. It is absurd to think of weddings as being “public accommodations”. I am happy to see the city back down. I doubt however they will give up. And even if they do, I am sure others will try in the future.

  3. This is impossible, I’ve been assured that gay marriage recognition and anti-discrimination ordinances are the exact same law. No way they could be litigated separately. Why is REASON so dishonest?

    1. They seemed connected…until public pressure got the city to change its mind.

      1. The anti-discrimination ordinance was in place before gay marriage was recognized by the state. They could of been sued even if the marriage wasn’t recognized. Just like the flower (I think) one in New Mexico. They were sued years before New Mexico recognized gay marriage for refusing to decorate a non-government marriage.

      2. They weren’t connected. That’s just you.

      3. Here you go. The Boise ordinance was passed in December 2012. Gay marriage became legal in Idaho in October, 2014.

        This is a common pattern throughout the country. The currently controversial one here in Houston exists despite gay marriage not being recognized in Texas.

        1. Looks like Boise, not Cour D’Alene

        2. Riddle me this: how can a government compel a business to assist at gay weddings, without recognizing gay weddings?

          To repeat what I’ve said before: You can’t fit a sheet of onionskin paper between the SSM movement and the “I want cake” movement.

          1. Riddle me this: how can a government compel a business to assist at gay weddings, without recognizing gay weddings?

            Because you can have a gay wedding without the government recognizing the wedding. That’s exactly what happened in the New Mexico case.

            1. Of course you can *have* a gay wedding, but if the government backs up the wedding by forcing businesses to cater it and/or celebrate it, then the government is recognizing the marriage!

    2. I know. I can’t believe Reason is lying like this. Everyone knows no city would even try to do such a thing. Gay marriage only results in good, never bad.

      1. DURRRRRRRR

      2. Gay marriage results in good (or at least doesn’t affect anyone). Anti-discrimination ordinances results in bad. And anti-discrimination ordinances have been around for decades in one form or another. They’ve often included gays long before gay marriage was legal.

        1. No point reasoning with New Mary-Tulpa. We’re going to get the trifecta of Christian bakers, liberty by luddism, and that voting LP = supporting Dems. John is as fucking insane as he is mendacious and retarded.

          1. It’s millennials fault for driving him insane. Probably.

          2. Now that right there is classic Cytotoxic logic and argumentation. Reason’s resident Aristotle, he is.

        2. Gay marriage had the effect of extending the reach of the “bad” anti-discrimination ordinance, so its effects in this case were very bad.

      3. I know. I can’t believe Reason is lying like this. Everyone knows no city would even try to do such a thing. Gay marriage only results in good, never bad.

        You never did clarify why the name of a contractual arrangement is so awful to you. I get that you have religious reasons, but you’ve yet to identify how gay marriage is an affront to liberty.

    3. You’ve been talking to strawmen.

      When gay marriage wasn’t legal, the anti-discrimination law had no effect on this business. When it became legal, suddenly it did effect this business (whatever backing-off rationalization the city attorney came up with).

    4. I’ve been assured that gay marriage recognition and anti-discrimination ordinances are the exact same law.

      No, you have been told that winning an Equal Protection lawsuit puts you in a position to claim protected/privileged class status.

      Which is unquestionably true. That status means that you are now eligible for nationwide anti-discrimination privileges.

      The fact that there are also local ordinances that do the same thing does not affect, at all, the way EP works in our system.

      The fact that a city has backed off on enforcing these particular protected/privileged class requirements in this case casts no light on how the nationwide protected/privileged class game will play out.

      The fact that people are already using local anti-discrimination ordnances to go after people should give you a clue that the same will happen with the nationwide protected/privileged class.

      1. For a quick primer on how EP turns into protected/privileged class status, wiki gives some examples:

        In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Reed v. Reed, extending the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to protect women from gender discrimination, in situations where there is no rational basis for the discrimination.[63] That level of scrutiny was boosted to an intermediate level in Craig v. Boren (1976).[64]

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E…..rientation

      2. Well that hasn’t happened yet. All these discrimination suits have been through state or local ordinances. If and when there is a federal statute or federal case law extending it federally then that will be another thing to oppose. It will still be a separate statute or legal precedent than the ones recognizing gay marriage. Just like they are both separate from the ones you are citing now. And it goes back to my point that freedom of association has been trashed in this way for a long time and gay marriage has nothing to do with it.

        1. And it goes back to my point that freedom of association has been trashed in this way for a long time and gay marriage has nothing to do with it.

          I agree on both points. I think its a matter of emphasis, really.

          My complaint is that, by signing onto the EP tactic for advancing gay marriage, libertarians have set the stage for expanding the trashing of freedom of association.

          And their continued denial, even when that expansion is underway right in front of them, really cranks my handle.
          Sure, the city backed off this time, but does anyone doubt that getting the city to back off was free or easy, or that a chilling effect on freedom of association hasn’t been created?

          Denying that this choice of tactics has consequences has the stink of the denial of responsibility encapsulated in the phrase “unintended consequences”.

  4. Rather, the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance doesn’t specify that a business has to be a non-profit in order to claim a religious-based exemption from the law.

    *sigh*

    How about on individual rights?

    Why do I need a religion to keep the zillion pound hammer of government off my head?

    1. Oh? Are you one of those weirdos that thinks that choice extends beyond the gunch?

      1. I’d like to thank you for introducing me to a new word. I do not know how it is I have lived for so long without knowingly hearing the word gunch.

    2. Cuz the rest of the first amendment has been one eviscerated that the religion part.

    3. At least they didn’t make the retarded non-profit/profit distinction. Accidentally.

  5. HAH! Take THAT, Pink Illuminati!

  6. “An American Civil Liberties Union representative gave the decision his nod of approval as long as the business is a “religious corporation” and as long as they don’t perform non-religious ceremonies and then refuse to serve same-sex couples.”

    Ah, yes, the ACLU can always be relied on to protect their religious freedom so long as the file the right paperwork and as long as their wedding ceremonies conform to the ACLU’s idea of *real* religion.

    Never mind that Protestants (and even Catholics in certain circumstances) recognize civil marriage. Never mind that the Puritans, as part of their beliefs, endorsed civil marriage without presuming to endorse SSM.

    http://www.christianchronicler…..scene.html

    No, what matters is that the ACLU is satisfied as to your religious bona fides.

  7. “But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit.”

    After further review, he determined that the wedding chapel owners had his balls in a vice and that it was time to extricate himself.

    Thank you, Alliance Defending Freedom – you did yeoman’s work!

  8. Thanks for following up on this Scott.

    An American Civil Liberties Union representative gave the decision his nod of approval as long as the business is a “religious corporation” and as long as they don’t perform non-religious ceremonies and then refuse to serve same-sex couples.

    This is an awful legal position to take and one more reason I can’t stand the ACLU. I agree with Paul that the designation of the entity as “religious” should not matter. We are, as Scott said, talking about speech here, and often speech reflecting religious views. Such matters, whether engaged in for profit or not, should be left alone by fascists of any stripe.

    1. We are, as Scott said, talking about speech here, and often speech reflecting religious views.

      Also, and maybe even primarily, association. You aren’t free to associate unless you are free to not associate.

      1. You aren’t free to associate unless you are free to not associate.

        For instance, my wife exercised her freedom to not associate with me.

  9. “Marriage is a right. A wedding ceremony is not.”

    That’s a nice distinction. I don’t believe for a second that the Left believes it, though, since their creed is “Nobody has any right to do anything I don’t like or to not do anything I like.”. Which is a pity. The Liberal Left Intellectuals may have the razzamatazz to bring about the Nanny State they think they want, but they despise the armed men they would have to have to enforce it, and that shows. So it’s pretty much inevitable that they will get the tyranny going, and then be amongst the first batch liquidated.

    That is, after all, what has happened everywhere else The Revolution has happened.

  10. City Tells Idaho Wedding Chapel It Can Turn Away Gay Couples

    Not that you should need permission to not associate with people, but… good.

  11. But decorating a cake with words that say “Congratuation on your Wedding, Gary and Mike” isn’t speech?

    1. Only if you do an interpretive dance of it.

  12. Because the idea that a wedding ceremony is a public accommodation is absolutely absurd.

    The idea that ANY private business is a “public accommodation” is absurd.

  13. Coeur d’Alene

    I’ve only drove through there a couple of times, never stopped. But the scenic beauty of the place is quite impressive.

    1. Stop here next time- http://www.yelp.com/biz/hudson…..ur-d-alene

    2. They have a golf course with a hole that is made longer or shorter by moving the green.

  14. 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.

    I’m hoping that this is just a recital of justification advanced by those intent on destroying freedom of association, and not an endorsement of this view.

    1. I put a parenthetical statement in that paragraph to that effect.

  15. As a Libertarian, I have a problem with government getting into religious organizations and how various religions practice their faith. The First Amendment is quite clear that government shall NOT infringe on the freedoms of religion.

    If government is so anxious to force Christian churches to perform gay marriages, how about forcing Muslim mosques to do the same? Or forcing Jewish and Muslim flocks to accept openly gay men and women eating bacon sandwiches?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.