Two Christian ministers who own an Idaho wedding chapel, the Hitching Post, were told they had to perform same-sex weddings or they could face jail time and up to $1,000 in daily fines, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.
ABC News reports that the owners of the Hitching Post, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, said they are prepared to close their doors rather than conduct same-sex marriages.
“I think the Bible is pretty clear that homosexuality is not his way, and therefore I cannot unite people in a way that I believe would conflict with what the Bible teaches.”
When it comes to who can and can’t be married at chapels like the Hitching Post, Warren Wilson at the Coeur d’Alene City Attorney’s Office references a different set of rules. The new ordinance, passed in 2013, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in addition to housing, employment, and public accommodation.
“For profit wedding chapels are in a position now where last week the ban would have prevented them from performing gay marriages, this week gay marriages are legal, pending an appeal to the 9th Circuit. I would think that the Hitching Post would probably be considered a place of public accommodation that would be subject to the ordinance.”
Wilson told KXLY that any wedding chapel that turns away a gay couple would be a violation of the law could possibly be “looking at a potential misdemeanor citation.” The lawsuit filed in the Ohio courts notes that the penalties could be applied daily.
“By declining to perform same-sex ceremonies and face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. Worse, each day the Knapps decline to perform a requested same-sex wedding ceremony, they commit a separate and distinct misdemeanor, subject to the same penalties. Thus, if the Knapps decline a same-sex wedding ceremony for just one week, they risk going to jail for over 3 years and being fined $7,000. For the past several months, the City has privately and publicly threatened to apply Ordinance §9.56 to the Knapps if same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho and the Knapps declined to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony at The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel.”
The lawsuit claims the Knapps are being denied their rights under the Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Protected Act (FERPA).
“The Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Protected Act (FERPA)provides that “[f]ree exercise of religion is a fundamental right that applies in this state, even if laws, rules or other
government actions are facially neutral.”
The Knapps believe that if the state requires them to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples, they are not being allowed that fundamental right to religious freedom granted by the state.
What do you think? Should wedding chapels or ministers be required to perform same-sex marriages under anti-discrimination ordinances?