Monday, October 27, 2014

City Now Says Ministers' For-Profit Wedding Chapel Need Not Perform Same-Sex Marriages

In Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, the Hitching Post, a for-profit wedding chapel across the street from the county clerk's office now seems in the clear to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.  Earlier this month, the ministers filed suit against the city which had threatened to enforce its non-discrimination ordinance against the chapel. (See prior posting.) However now, as reported Friday by Boise State Public Radio, the city attorney says that the chapel is exempt, even though it is a for-profit entity.   Last month it reorganized as a limited liability company and provided in its operating agreement: "The Hitching Post is a religious corporation owned solely by ordained ministers of the Christian religion who operate this entity as an extension of their sincerely held religious beliefs and in accordance with their vows taken as Christian ministers."

On Friday, the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations sent a statement (full text) to Couer d'Alene officials agreeing that the chapel is exempt:
When they are performing a religious activity like marrying people, ministers 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 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.