Although same-sex marriage is now legal in 32 states, the religious freedom movement has been pushing back for limitation. One new counter-move on the widespread legalization is coming from an unlikely source — Las Vegas wedding chapels.
Even though religious freedom proponents lost in many of their statewide votes for special protections for discriminating against clients based on religious belief, they did win valuable footing with the Hobby Lobby case. Such a stride in the court for religious conservatives has inspired many of them to again strongly oppose other issues where public opinion has pushed back their own interests — gay marriage among them.
Nevada, however, is among the states where gay marriage gas been legalized, although it didn’t come from voters. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down a ban that the state had previously approved, in reality leaving a majority of people in disagreement with the policy.
Gay activists discard the idea that companies have the right to refuse offering their services to people based on sexual orientation. James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT Project, spoke out against the Las Vegas chapels refusing to perform gay marriages in a conference call, reported the Los Angeles Times.
“That’s not religious freedom. That’s discrimination.”
Tod Story, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, agreed, saying that the refusal of service qualifies as discrimination.
“When a [gay] customer shows up to a place of public accommodation, a business, they are entitled to those services the same as any other customer.”
But that argument is not satisfying chapel owners who feel the government is infringing on their private businesses. Many feel that their own convictions are being disregarded in the name of equality, such Dolly de Leon, owner of Vegas Wed Chapel.
“I’m not going to perform it. I believe that I cannot be forced to perform a wedding. I cannot… because of my faith, because of my belief.”
Even though there are a large number of Las Vegas wedding chapels turning down same-sex couples, that’s not to say that there aren’t a large portion of them who are willing to open up their matrimonial services for gay couples. In fact, many of them say that they are capitalizing on the lowered competition for a market of people eager to wed, as they have only recently been granted the right. Jim McGinnis, owner of Chapelle de l’Amour, says that he has had customers come to him after being turned down by other chapels.
“We have a lot of couples coming in and naming all the chapels they’ve been to and been kicked out [of]… I feel what they’re doing is wrong.”
Do you think Las Vegas wedding chapels have a right to turn down legal ceremonies?
[Image via Amy Schubert, Flickr]