We have written before about the unintended consequences of so-called “nondiscrimination” ordinances like the one recently passed in Fayetteville. These types of city ordinances actually make it a crime to discriminate on the basis of sexual-orientation and gender-identity–meaning violators can be hit with jail time instead of simply a lawsuit. However, the ordinances are written so broadly that relatively benign actions qualify as “discrimination” under the law.
Case in point, a husband and wife in Idaho now face the prospect of expensive fines and jail time simply for declining to officiate a same-sex wedding.
According to the Daily Signal,
“[C]ity officials have told ordained ministers they have to celebrate same-sex weddings or face fines and jail time.
“The Idaho case involves Donald and Evelyn Knapp, both ordained ministers, who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel. Officials from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, told the couple that because the city has a non-discrimination statute that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Idaho’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the couple would have to officiate at same-sex weddings in their own chapel. …
“On Friday, a same-sex couple asked to be married by the Knapps, and the Knapps politely declined. The Knapps now face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.
“A week of honoring their faith and declining to perform the ceremony could cost the couple three and a half years in jail and $7,000 in fines.”
The Knapps are ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel–an evangelical denomination that often ordains husbands and wives both. They have been celebrating weddings at their wedding chapel since 1989.
The city’s “nondiscrimination” ordinance states it is unlawful “to deny to or to discriminate against any person because of sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression the full enjoyment of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges of any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement.” The ordinance contains a narrow exemption for religious organizations, but not for ministers, personally, and not for wedding chapels.
The Coeur d’Alene City Council approved the contentious ordinance in the June of 2013 by a vote of 5 to 1 after 4 hours of public testimony.
It is worth noting that the Coeur d’Alene ordinance and the Fayetteville ordinance seem very similar. Both make it a crime to “discriminate” against anyone on the basis of sexual-orientation or gender-identity, and neither one has meaningful exceptions for ministers.