Cruel Activism: The Gay Rights Attack On Cynthia and Robert Gifford

The-Gifford-Barn-in-Schaghticoke-NY

It is said that close cases make bad law, and they often make bad ethics too. Legally, the culpability of Cynthia and Robert Gifford is not at all certain. Ethically, however, as right as they may be on the law, the conduct of their persecutors, same-sex couple Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, has been unnecessary, without compassion, vindictive and cruel.

The Giffords are active Christians who own Liberty Ridge Farm, located in Schaghticoke in upstate New York. They supplement the farm’s revenue with attractions designed for kids and families, including a pumpkin patch, a corn stalk maze and a rustic barn for parties and weddings. That rustic barn has three stories. The Giffords reside on the top floor, with the bottom floor designed for events, and the second floor consisting of rooms for activities relating to their preparation and management.

When Cynthia Gifford received a phone call from Melissa McCarthy inquiring about having her wedding at the farm, Cynthia invited her to visit and assess the venue.In the follow-up phone call, McCarthy revealed for the first time that the affair would be a same-sex wedding. Cynthia explained that the family’s faith held that marriages can only be a union of a man and a woman, so they did not make their farm available for ceremonies. She said, however, that the couple was welcome to hold the wedding reception there.

Apparently expecting this response, Jennifer and Melissa surreptitiously recorded the phone call. Armed with the recording, they contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union who immediately filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Giffords on their behalf.

The Giffords argue that this was not a matter of discrimination, but religious practice. They had hosted events for gay clients before, and employed gays. “The Giffords’ objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians,” their lawyer said.

They lost. Bronx administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares rejected Giffords’ claim that the farm, which is also their home, is not a place of public accommodation and is therefore not subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of New York’s Human Rights Law. She ruled that Liberty Ridge qualifies as a public accommodation because it regularly collects fees for space, facilities, services and meals, so it cannot be considered “distinctly private.”  The fact that the Giffords reside at Gifford Barn does not render it private. The Giffords were ordered to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution.

The Giffords are appealing.

The Giffords, according to the judge, “unlawfully discriminated against complainants solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.” Another way of looking at it is that Jennifer and Melissa, now married, discriminated against the Giffords solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Why couldn’t they agree to respect the Giffords’ religious beliefs, and use the property for the wedding reception only, having the actual ceremony elsewhere? Would that really be such a hardship, or a compromise in principles? Indeed, if the nation and committed progressives really aspire to tolerance, diversity and mutual compassion and understanding, why wouldn’t that be the ethical, desirable, reasonable compromise?

I know the response to that question, of course. This was a matter of principle. This would send a message. Crushing the Giffords was necessary to show that all opposition to same sex marriage would eventually be crushed under the advance of history. Never mind that these were not anti-gay bigots, and that they have as much right to practice their faith as a lesbian couple has a right to wed. This is a zero sum game, apparently. Besides the law—probably–supports McCarthy and Erwin.

I think the actions of Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin violate the Second Niggardly Principle, which is a rule of kindness, compromise and common sense. It holds…

“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”

The couple’s legitimate objectives in this case were to get married and celebrate the marriage in an attractive venue. I don’t think setting out to punish a couple for belonging to a religion that doesn’t accept same sex marriage is a legitimate objective, nor is turning their lives upside down, nor forcing them into the maw of litigation to bend them to their will. Does the gay rights movement really feel that all those who have not yet accepted the justice and inevitability of same-sex marriage must be exposed and made to suffer? It seems that this is McCarthy and  Erwin believe, and what this case will come to stand for.

If so, I think the story of the Giffords will do more harm than good, hardening opposition, confirming suspicion, undermining trust and ultimately making acceptance for gay couples harder, however it turns out in the courts. Just because you have the law on your side doesn’t mean you have to use it when doing so involves unnecessary harm to others. Gays want compassion, kindness, tolerance and fairness. It would help if they showed a willingness to give as well as receive.

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Pointer: Steven Mark Pilling

68 thoughts on “Cruel Activism: The Gay Rights Attack On Cynthia and Robert Gifford

  1. These set-up situations are going to have a problematic backlash. When a Westboro Baptist type church goes to a “gay event caterer”* and wants to include a “G-d hates….” cake the caterer won’t be able to deny service.

    *–As one recent FoodNetwork competitor described himself.

  2. Does the gay rights movement really feel that all those who have not yet accepted the justice and inevitability of same-sex marriage must be exposed and made to suffer?
    ************
    Yes.
    That is the new American Way.
    If they don’t agree, force them.
    They are ignorant and need your guidance.

    • I’ll go back to a “Comment of the Day” Jack posted in March, 2013.
      https://ethicsalarms.com/2013/03/28/comment-of-the-day-the-same-sex-marriage-wars/

      My question then, “Jack, since the aftermath of Prop 8, I have always wondered – is the thuggery/coercion and thought control a “bug” associated with the push for gay marriage, or is it a “feature” that comes with the enactment of gay marriage?”

      I think the answer is clear: It is a feature that is part and parcel with the enactment of same-sex marriage – and the use of courts to impose it, as well as the unilateral actions of Eric Holder and various state AGs speak volumes.

      Whatever LEGAL arguments there are for same-sex marriage, proponents are ignoring the fact that a significant chunk of the population has moral objections to same-sex marriage. Rather than seek to avoid creating more moral outrage among opponents, they provoke battles – refusing any compromise whatsoever.

      I noted back then as well, “If this is how the advocates act when they have relatively little power over their opponents, then how will they act with even more power? As far as I can tell, they have no problem trampling over my core freedoms. As such, it comes down to a case of ‘my rights or theirs’ – and in that sort of case, can anyone blame people for fighting to preserve what they feel is rightfully theirs?”

      This one is going to be a fight to the finish – no matter who wins, the losers will feel that something that is rightfully theirs has been taken from them, and they will want it back.

  3. What I have a problem with is the expansive interpretation of what constitutes discrimination.

    Judge Pares’s interpretation of discrimination means, essentially, that refusing to host religious ceremonies by another religion (such as a procession for the Lady of Fatima) constitutes religious discrimination. How is forcing people to participate in religious ceremonies they disagree with consistent with the First Amendment?

    • Well, it’s not, that’s all. That wasn’t the issue in the bakery and photography cases, where the distinction was between expressive art and a public accommodation…tight call. Here, it is freedom of religions, which leads me to believe that the Giffords may have a good case.

      • We’re missing the forest for the trees:
        The real casualty of same-sex marriage will be basic rights protected by the First Amendment: Freedom of expression, freedom of religion, maybe even free speech and freedom of the press.

        Inherent in each of those right is the opposite: Freedom of expression includes the right to NOT express; freedom of religion also includes the right to not believe in certain tenets; freedom of speech includes the right to NOT speak; and freedom of the press includes the right to NOT publish something.

        Yet now, the argument in these cases is that the state has the right to compel expression (in the cases of photographers and bakers), to compel publication (in this case of T-shirts advertising a gay-pride event in Lexington, Kentucky). The rest of the First Amendment rights may not be far behind.

        • Well, to be fair, a cake and a photograph don’t have to be seen as expressive. Was it going to be a generic wedding cake, or a custom job? They are well south of making a couple host a gay wedding too.I think the distinction here is that the bakery and the photographer were expressing bigotry, flat out, relating to a service. Cakes and photographs are not a ceremony—they do not cause a wedding to happen. A ceremony is a direct contravention of a religious belief however.

          It would be helpful if bigots didn’t keep citing morality, and those citing morality didn’t do so in the language of bigotry. (Some here fall into that trap.) Morality: “Marriage is a sanctified bond between a man and a woman.” Bigotry: “Homosexuality is an offense to the species and threatens civilization as we know it.” Refusing to make a generic cake for a gay couple is arguably hateful, and the law has an interest in discouraging hateful conduct. Not wanting to host a wedding (but being willing to host the reception) is clear religious exercise, with no bigotry attached.

          • The question comes down to this: Should the state have the power to coerce the expression of certain sentiments from an artist?

            Some here feel the answer should be yes. I disagree – because it hasn’t stopped at providing those services. It’s come down to the government trying to force pastors to officiate at same-sex weddings (http://www.adfmedia.org/News/PRDetail/9364).

            And yeah, Jack, I’ll say it: My suspicions have been confirmed. My concerns about what same-sex marriage would mean to the First Amendment are proving to be very justified… after YEARS of lies from same-sex marriage proponents.

            If I were financially able, I would be making serious donations to the Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, and other groups standing against further expansion.

            For at least six years, bullying, coercion, and thuggery have been features of the push for gay marriage. They were always meant to be applied to those who dissented. Had they been bugs, the major gay-rights groups would have sought to address the concerns of their opponents.

            We know it’s a feature as opposed to a bug, when no gay rights group stands against Houston mayor Annise Parker’s attempt to bully five pastors after the Houston city attorney used shady means to prevent a referendum on the “bathroom bill” she rammed through.

            Look at what happened after Prop 8 – I had a link in that Comment of the Day almost 20 months ago. The evidence is clear that for whatever legal principle warrants supporting same-sex marriage (equal protection), there are clearly serious ethical and moral problems that have emerged. When they seek to silence those who are raising concerns… using name-calling to do so (and yes, I think a LOT of the cries of “Bigot!” are being used to stifle debate, NOT out of real bigotry), as well as other, more… coercive means, it’s not about just same-sex marriage any more.

            You can’t look at these cases in isolation any more. You need to look at the pattern. And I think what the pattern shows is very clear: Those pushing for “LGBT rights” have become vicious bullies, willing to misuse powers and the law to coerce and, yes, oppress those who disagree with them.

            The ethical course is to resist them, to deny them the tools that they can use to oppress those they have deemed their enemies, and to make their true character known.

            • You can’t look at these cases in isolation any more. You need to look at the pattern. And I think what the pattern shows is very clear: Those pushing for “LGBT rights” have become vicious bullies, willing to misuse powers and the law to coerce and, yes, oppress those who disagree with them.

              It is important to remember that the same-sex marriage campaign was spearheaded by radical leftist ideologues who wanted to destroy America, because they believed that it would destroy America.

              The turning point was in 2005, when Vice President Dick Cheney came out in support. Prior to that, most Americans would not consider pro-SSM arguments, because they were being made by radical leftist ideologues, and their motivations were suspect. But no one could credibly accuse Cheney of being a radical leftist ideologue. He made it okay to support SSM.

              Now the radical leftists want to use their success to continue in their quest to destroy America.

              • 1. I very much doubt that Cheney’s opinion swayed many citizens one way or the other. Indeed, he is so hated by the left that it’s amazing that it didn’t reject gay marriage just because he was in favor of it.

                2. The Gay Rights movement is treading in the well-worn path of the civil rights and feminist movements. To all three, equality under the law isn’t sufficient: bias, bigotry and even principled criticism must become a thought crime. I’m officially in favor of all three movements, but Americans still have the right to think however they want to without fearing fines and law suits. [Edited to remove the apparent ambiguity which led some commenters to assume that I had inexplicably rejected what I have asserted ad nauseum here for five full years.]

                • Yeah, right: Think whatever you want. But you’d better be careful about what you speak and write. And don’t dare to get too cock-sure that no matter how piously you behave according to the prevailing “orthodoxy,” you won’t be found out and “brought to justice” like the fox in a jolly good old English country hunt. (It’ll probably be more like the mechanical dog doing the hunting in “Fahrenheit 451.”)

                • You are officially in favor of making those three things thought crimes? I’m really hoping I’m misreading you. As far as I’m concerned, the very concept of a thought crime is unethical. The law should concern itself with actions, not thoughts.

                  • Huh? I’m officially in favor of feminism, gay rights and civil rights, but the assertion that “Equality under the law isn’t sufficient: bias, bigotry and even principled criticism must become a thought crime” is utter crap. I can see how you might find “all three” ambiguous, but I would think the last sentence eliminated the ambiguity, since “but Americans still have the right to think however they want to without fearing fines and law suits.” is pretty clear.

                    • Thanks for the edit. It really did seem out of character for you. Without the word “movements”, the default parsing would be the list of three things which were immediately prior, although I automatically assumed you weren’t in favor of “Bias, bigotry, and even principled criticism” and assumed the criminalization of them. The last sentence doesn’t clarify, because it states the way they are rather than any sort of preference on your part. Since the movements weren’t presented in a handy set of three, I didn’t event consider them as the three things you were talking about.

                      It was sufficiently confusing, and you have demonstrated sufficient attachment to anti-discrimination law in the past, that I had to double check. The interpretation I came to seemed incredibly inconsistent with my mental model of you, and I should have added a line to that effect in my comment.

                      I think it shaded my response to a comment lower down as well, but my cognitive dissonance has now been resolved so I’ll take another look.

  4. Jack, take a close look at what is happening in Houston.

    Todd Starnes has the reporting here:
    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/10/17/houston-to-pastors-forget-your-sermons-now-want-your-speeches/

    This stemmed from a suit file after the city attorney illegally invalidated 38,000 signatures, preventing a referendum on the “bathroom bill” passed in Houston.

    Starnes is reporting on other incidents, including threats to jail pastors who refuse to perform same-sex weddings in Idaho. But put it all together… and yeah, same-sex marriage may become legal in all 50 states… but this WILL become another deeply divisive issue, much like abortion.

    • Basically, if politics includes a moral or religious concept, aspect, or principle, religions are no longer allowed to talk about it in a way that the government objects to (they call it separation of church and state). The state gets to dictate what is acceptable behavior for the church.

      • Sheesh! If the faithful remnant of the Church of Christ stands its ground, the gulags of Middle North America just might become the most rape-free, bosom-buddied, marriage-eligible (to opposite-sex partners), prayerful, worshipful, pious, other minority- and family-safe, and TOLERANT majority-heterosexual locales in the land! Guess I’ll have to add jail to my bucket list (great places too, these days, I hear, for Muslim-hunting).

  5. I got married 12 years ago, and I have to say, the world has changed a lot since then. We actually had a tough time finding a resort in our desired area because we had same sex couples who were going to be wedding guests. We were told that they would have to room with guests of the opposite gender — obviously a non-starter.

    I don’t like set ups like this because, well, I don’t like set-ups in general. But imagine if EVERY public establishment in a county or state refused to host weddings. Then does it rise to the level of active discrimination?

    • Beth I am calling bullshit, were they B and Bs? I have stayed in plenty of places, high and lows ends, all over the country and world, none have ever had any issue with same sex individuals staying in the same room, ever.

        • Well, Beth, it’s still unbelievable, what you say happened, even 12 years ago, even in whatever Islands you mean. No resort, no resort clerk, and no resort management would have dared to size-up guests as they were checking in – or to pause a split second to investigate (i.e., pry into what’s none of their business) while taking reservations – to examine, consider, and reject serving pairs of the same sex getting rooms together, making some presumption that the rooming-together was connected in any way to the guests’ erotic preferences. Preposterous. Utterly not credible.

          • Again, calling me a liar. Nice. If I were to make up a story, don’t you think I would have had a more compelling one, with maybe some juicy details?

            It was a Couples Resort in Jamaica in 2002. At the time, they refused to book a same sex couple. Period. I’ve heard that they changed its policy since then — but at the time, we couldn’t have our wedding there because we didn’t want to exclude some of our friends.

            Since Jack has been banning assholes lately, I suggest that he adds Steve and Lucky to his list.

              • “Now I require proof demonstrating that you are not an asshole.”

                Why would I even think of trying to prove such a thing? You need Jesus.

                Jamaican. Not American. Or at least, with Jamaican influence. As I thought. Okay, Mizz ban-enforcement refereeette, you obviously won’t appreciate how lucky I am, or why. Yeah, some “couples resorts” have come a long way, fast. Makes me want to look further, to see who’s made a bundle lately suing “singles resorts” for refusing couples.

            • Beth, you are justly feeling aggrieved, but I’d ask you to read what lucky wrote:

              No resort, no resort clerk, and no resort management would have dared to size-up guests as they were checking in – or to pause a split second to investigate (i.e., pry into what’s none of their business) while taking reservations – to examine, consider, and reject serving pairs of the same sex getting rooms together, making some presumption that the rooming-together was connected in any way to the guests’ erotic preferences. Preposterous. Utterly not credible.

              Since returning here under a new name, Eey..I mean, Lucky has essentially jettisoned all direct commentary and speaks entirely in the language of sarcasm and irony. I don’t think he’s got it quite down yet, but re-reading that section, I think he was supporting you, believe it or not.

              • Jack,
                Since you made two replies in a row here, I’ll say more after your latter comment. You explained well to Beth (thank you) what has, of late, become my personal struggle between “saying things straight” and speaking entirely in the language of sarcasm and irony. I might end up tweaking my commenter name; from now on, people are going to remember Michael Jackson better than Lou Gehrig, anyway.

          • I’m puzzled why you would doubt Beth on this, and not merely because I know her, because she is an ethical lawyer, and because ethical lawyers don’t even lie in blog comments. Why is that so unbelievable?

            On the other hand—are you listening, Beth?—I detect that entire last section is completely tongue in cheek. If so, you have to either commit to being excessively sarcastic in all future comments, or else give us some hint when you’re not. Because is is confusing some times.

            • Jack I doubted her because her account didn’t sound credible; they had a tough time finding a resort that would allow same sex individuals to stay in the same room? As in they had to search many places just to find one? Even in 2002 does that sound likely to have happened in the United States, even in some back woods local? Think back to the days of restricting unmarried opposite sex accommodations…..I could say that her anecdotal evidence such as mine has no direct correlation to fact but such a statement as hers should be supported if it is going to be used to demonstrate “progress”. Now that we know it occurred in another country and actually has little value as a contrast to your post I have to wonder if she was simply being duplicitous in using it as such, as a lawyer she should know that other countries regulations and laws can be drastically different then ours, sure ethical comparisons can still be made but I took your post as one which contrasted the legal and ethical implications of an event as it applied to the United States.

              I may have just read too much into her comment, maybe she did intend “world” literally and not figuratively as I took it. Beth identifying Jamaica as the location of discrimination certainly lends credence to the literal meaning, but if the New York incident demonstrates favorable world progress what about Africa and the Middle East?

              I did apologize to her for calling her a liar, it may not rate high on the scale but I did mean it. That of course doesn’t mean that I don’t question the intent of her comment but I am sure she will read this and comment.

              • I did say world. My next comment said “the Islands.” I’m not sure why the confusion. As a FYI, I don’t mind being called an idiot, but call me a liar and we will have serious problems.

                • The confusion came from your comment about not finding accommodations for your gay friends and how it related to Jacks post about the law and ethics as it pertains to providing a venue for a same sex wedding in New York. If your story was a true accounting of what occurred and it had happened in the United States then it would have demonstrated how the laws and acceptance has or hasn’t changed in the US over the last 12 years, since your comment obviously didn’t apply to something that occurred here it is meaningless in terms of the US law and the ethical use of such laws..

            • “I’m puzzled why you would doubt Beth on this,…”

              Funny: Jack, I thought you were talking to me, not to Steve. I am glad he spoke up, too.

              Why? In a word: Leftism. That is not Beth’s fault – at least, not for what I have read of what she has said in this thread. But, it is the fault of so many others on the left – so many of whom I have caught exaggerating, and lying – and, I might have caught Beth doing that, once or twice. (My memory might be fuzzy, but it isn’t completely broken.)

              So many leftists’ manners of marching toward their goals have caused me to come to associate leftism with a Prime Directive to “just win, baby,” no matter what the truth is, no matter how obvious the truth is. Perhaps commenters like Steve, Steve-O, Inquiring Mind and I have similarly calibrated our alarms, for similar reasons. Perhaps that should not be a surprise to anyone on the left, especially given how rapidly the left’s preferred re-definition of marriage has “progressed.” I used quotes there, not just because I don’t consider the re-definition progress at all. I say it in quotes also because I have justified suspicion that the left is considering “same-sex couples” merely an early phase of marriage re-definition (toward establishment of a “single controller” of marriage definition) – much like the PPACA was NEVER intended (a lie) to cause people to lose access to the doctor of their choice, or impose a “single payer” system.

              Of course, I have caught exaggeration and lying by non-leftists, too. But those catches have been easier to make. Typically, I have caught non-leftists exaggerating based on ignorance and unwarranted fear, but rarely (if ever) lying. Let’s see…HOW many states now let a couple of the same sex call their union “marriage?” Aaannnd…WHERE are the BIG problems with decay in the social order? Between partners who call themselves “married?” I don’t think so. At least, not yet. I know I’m a “homophobe;” I am comfortable with that; but I’m not going to let whatever natural fear I have, multiply unwarranted fear.

              On the other hand, I *do* see reflections of big problems and societal decay in situations where pairs of people call themselves “divorcing” or “divorced,” as well as in many situations where people are having sex, or not having sex, or showing interest in sex, whether the persons consider themselves single, or married, or divorced. In those matters, I see ample rational basis for fear that mass attitudes such as “everyone does it” will enable continuation of unnecessary harms on an unnecessary scale which an appropriate body of law and manners of law enforcement could vastly curtail. (I am not even remotely suggesting Sharia law or anything like it.)

              I can only agree, per ethics as Jack teaches them, that there is no apparent direct harm to others, if a couple of people of the same sex merely consider themselves “married” with a basis in law which treats each of the couple equally with respect to one another. There is a couple I knew well, who considered each other “married” while living together for decades – until one died, and the spouse that the decedent never divorced showed up to “clean out” the survivor of the “married” pair. There will always be lying. But I do desire a more perfect world where the consequences for the liar, and for the victim(s) of the liar, are assured, unavoidable, measurable, meaningful, and just.

              *I* decidedly and eternally will not think of same-sex couplings as equal to opposite-sex couplings. I maintain some fear (perhaps irrational and “homophobic” fear; perhaps fear reasoned and seasoned by experience and a lifetime of objective observation) about potential for future harm, and unnecessary harm, to others (particularly children) as a result of re-defined marriage. I probably won’t live long enough to see my fears addressed to where they are either validated or invalidated. Things can happen fast.

              But, at this time, I don’t see sufficient evidence of, or foreshadowings of, harm to an extent that I am compelled to act to reverse the latest re-definition of marriage, beyond my continued exercise of what have been (up to recently, at least, for the most part) protected rights of religion, speech, press and assembly. Though I don’t expect it to (based on its historic pattern of lying), the left had better fight to keep those rights for me and for everyone, but especially for those of us who the left disagrees with. Because if it doesn’t, the left is going to have nobody but itself to blame for the harm it will suffer as a result of the harm it inflicted first on me and my ilk. The current trend, which others in this thread have pointed out, reflects a push for a certain sexuality-based privilege and attendant “harm privilege” – which is a playing with a most dangerous kind of fire.

              • That’s bigotry, though. Liberals don’t lie, conservatives don’t lie, blacks don’t lie, Mexicans don’t lie—individuals lie. Until we know the individual and not just a broad category he or she may belong to, then it is unfair, based on that category, to assume any deficit of character or virtue, for that matter.

                • I am saying that harm privilege is bigotry. That bigotry has been encouraged and enabled by a league of leftist liars, who have earned and who deserve the prejudice against themselves (but not only against themselves, but also against the mass of like-minded leftists) held by their opponents. You can’t possibly be daring me to agree with you that “slave owners don’t lie” and “performers of abortions don’t destroy anything meaningful.” There comes a point where the preponderance of the same offense by individuals of a particular group is sufficient for every individual in the group to deserve to be regarded prejudicially (what you call bigotry). The lying left has secured its reputation, as has the murderous ISIS (if not the entire cult of Islam); revision, or even repair, is unworthy of fantasizing.

                  • But slave owner and abortion providers are conduct-based groupings. Certain conduct suggests other conduct. “Liberals” is a belief-based grouping, and that’s partyism. There are lying liberals (the Clintons) and lying conservatives. (Newt). If they switched parties, they would still be liars.

        • My apologies for calling you a liar.

          I would recommend a clearer statement something like “although it has no direct impact on this discussion in Jamaica where homosexuality was illegal, resorts catering to couples wouldn’t allow same sex couples to stay in the same room, Jamaica has come a long way in 12 years.”

          It was still my mistake, you did say “world” and I was the one who assumed you were relating this experience to contrast how far companies in the US have come.

  6. Either host weddings or don’t. Either works.
    What doesn’t work is hosting some, but refusing others.

    That’s legit for a church – a catholic church only holding catholic services because they’re not public accommodations.

    However, when a Vegas Elvis-themed Marriage “chapel” refuses to hold same-sex ceremonies because they “destroy the sanctity of marriage”, then you have to wonder whether religion is the justification, or merely an excuse.

    http://ventrellaquest.com/2014/10/19/the-sanctity-of-marriage/
    A Las Vegas chapel that performs Elvis-themed weddings is refusing to marry gays because it would destroy the sanctity of marriage.

    I am not making this up.

    Apparently, the Christian owner of the theme chapel says that this “violates God’s law” and therefore she will not allow gay marriages.

    OK, now a for this case – it’s too cruel. A quiet word, laying down the law that it’s all marriages or none, would have been sufficient. Fines, lawsuits etc only if they refuse to accept that. Even then, $15,000 seems excessive.

    And yes, it’s counterproductive to GLBTI aims too, but that should be irrelevant. You try not to be an asshole (pardon my language).

    • A Las Vegas chapel that performs Elvis-themed weddings is refusing to marry gays because it would destroy the sanctity of marriage.

      … the Christian owner of the theme chapel says that this “violates God’s law” and therefore she will not allow gay marriages.

      I’ll be posting tomorrow on another variation.

    • Think of other rituals that could take place at a party hosting venue, I am ok with the owner making that call, satanic, atheist, Mormon, celebration of an aborted fetus, whatever, if the owner isn’t comfortable with the ritual they should have the say.

      Providing generic material to such a ritual different story.

      • I do understand the counter argument though. The possibility of having to provide a venue for the Westboro Baptist Church is, according to some, an acceptable price to ensure that gays and supporters of gay rights are not denied a venue if they want to host an event that promotes gay rights or gay relationship.

    • I believe it’s a recently passed or about to be passed Illinois law that states as long as the church takes in money to host a wedding it is operating as a business, and in that regard it can’t refuse venue for a same-sex wedding. So your exception doesn’t seem to fly right now (legally), and I’m not sure ethically either (since money does make a difference).

  7. Recording the call without telling them isn’t a problem? That seems really off to me, that they could secretly record and then use it as the basis of a court case.

    3% of the population is asking for complete acceptance from the other 97% and that’s never going to happen. 97% of humanity will never agree on anything, it’s an unreasonable demand.

    • If its in a state where one party recording is legal, then using the device to expose illegal conduct is technically ethical, except that surreptitious recording is presumptively UNethical unless there’s a damn good reason for it. In this case, there really wasn’t.

  8. Jennifer and Melissa think THEY found easy targets.

    “Just because you have the law on your side doesn’t mean you have to use it when doing so involves unnecessary harm to others.”

    Hey, Jen and Mel: Got Sharia?

  9. Gays want compassion, kindness, tolerance and fairness.

    Why on Earth would you think that? They are no more likely to want that en bloc than stamp collectors or lawyers would. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them do – but I would be astonished if all of them would want to go that route. Their past history of not receiving that from others is no more certain to produce that effect than anti-semitism has led to all Jews reacting that way; some do, but a material number now opt for pre-emption.

  10. This legal bullying, plus the grossly excessive fine imposed on the bakery owners ($150K? Crimes of the third and second degree don’t get that), leads me to believe that, as I have said before, the gay marriage issue is not about equality, or at least it is not about equality anymore. It is now about dominance, revenge, and about silencing anyone who disagrees. Otherwise, you would see couples simply picking other vendors or venues. Instead they pick legal fights and attempt to impose very harsh penalties on those who won’t give them what they want and embrace full celebration of who and what they are and do.

    Back in the days after WWI, Poland was restored as a nation, in large part due to the efforts of one Field Marshal Josef Pilsudski. He embraced some aspects of socialism, but not all, and, when pressed to go all the way by more radical socialists, said something on the order of “I took the streetcar called socialism to the stop called independence, and there I got off. You are welcome to take it to the final stop if enough will go along with you.” It was because of his efforts that Poland fended off the early Bolshevik attacks, had a functioning democracy for a decade or two before the assaults of Hitler and Stalin, and wasn’t pulled immediately into the Soviet orbit.

    I daresay that Poland might have regained its independence fully had the Soviets not murdered 22,000 military officers, policemen, and prominent citizens in the Katyn Forest, leaving a ravaged country without leaders to accept whatever terms the powerful thrust upon it, turning it into a giant prison for 40+ years where no one had any rights, which crumbled only through the combined political resolve of Lech Walesa, military and diplomatic muscle of Ronald Reagan, and moral gravitas of St. John Paul II, three men the stature of which you will not find today.

    This is getting dangerously close to a legal equivalent of Katyn Forest, where those who disagree with the incoming orthodoxy are not merely ignored or even disfavored, they are destroyed, that they not be there to oppose that orthodoxy from gaining full power, and that those who remain see the empty houses, notice exactly who it is who isn’t guarding the nation, walking his beat, preaching from his pulpit, or publishing his articles, and understand that they best go along with the program, or theirs might be the next house standing empty.

    • Can’t have public accommodations treating law abiding citizens as untouchables, Steve. Can’t have it. It’s wrong, unfair, hateful, dangerous.

      The size of the fine is another issue.

      • It’s less harmful than allowing the government the power to say “Your freedom to (dis)associate ends at whatever arbitrary point we say it does”. Would you really like a world wherein no one who offers a service can deny that service to anyone, for any reason? What limits do you support on anti-discrimination law, if any? Can a gay restaurant owner refuse to serve a meal to Fred Phelps?

        I’m staking out the minority position of believing anti-private-discrimination law is unethical, and internally inconsistent because it requires arbitrary line drawing, which amounts to the government discriminating in favor of one group over another. Actual public discrimination is worse than any private discrimination it’s aiming to halt. I think the example someone linked above, regarding a pastor being forced by a city ordinance to perform a gay marriage ceremony, demonstrates an excellent example of this.

        I’m also one of the handful of people who thinks the government has no business regulating marriage except as a sub-unit of contract law, which has no bearing whatsoever on ceremonies. Zoe’s take above explicitly takes something that was fundamentally a social and religious event and gives government complete domination of it. Government has been more or less claiming that territory for a long time, so I suppose it’s not a huge step.

        I may not be able to come up with a set of ethics that are finite AND consistent AND complete (incompleteness theorem in a nutshell), but I’d really like to hang onto at least the first and second quality.

        • “Would you really like a world wherein no one who offers a service can deny that service to anyone, for any reason?”

          Straw man: not in issue. Would I, and do I. like a world where someone making use of the roads and the protection of the police to offer a service to the community and its lawful visitors is required not to discriminate because of age, gender, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or because the owner doesn’t like a T-shirt I’m wearing or the bumper sticker on my car?

          YES.

          • Hold on now, so our constitutional rights that are there to protect us from the government, not our fellow citizens, should now be applied on a individual basis since everyone utilizes some form government resource thus making them an agent of the government? Jack am I reading that correctly? Is your statement intended to be read ethically or legally?

            • The civil rights laws and public accommodation laws have been found to be constitutional, and that is correct. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are meaningless if individuals use their rights and numbers to take those rights from others. The Rand Paul argument—he’s a doctor, not a lawyer—has lost, and isn’t going to get another chance.

              • As I think you identify and understand this is pushing into forced participation of others religious rituals, when one is legally required to utilize their artistic talent or personal property to be a part of a religious or sudo religious ceremony than we have gone much farther then protecting ones right to persue happiness.

        • It’s not arbitrary at all, Phinn. It is the place where ethics has to be bolstered by law, the place where a majority of assholes and bullies attempt to make democracy undemocratic, unfree and miserable for anyone who can’t put together an intimidating mob.

          It is a terrible position that is simply wrong because it has only a narrow principle on its side, and otherwise doesn’t work, favors assholes over families and diversity, allows the guilty to abuse the innocent because they can, and would lead to civil war. You should drop it. The fact that Rand Paul believes as you do is enough for me to conclude that he is unqualified to hold office.

          What possible benefit do you see in letting public accommodations send Jews into the next state, or Fred Phelps? Damn right a gay owner should be required to serve him, if he doesn’t disrupt the place. In public, all that should matter is the right to be served by a public business. Any further limitation is a tyranny of assholes.

      • Also can’t treat people as criminals simply for having different beliefs they hold to. How’s this different than forcing a cafeteria to serve halal meat or be certified pork-free?

  11. I’m always looking for a way around the law – beyond the pale of ethics. Let’s say they are specifically (hypothetically) Catholic. If they had contracted an exclusive license for the local parish to conduct all (and only) Catholic ceremonies at their ranch because it was specific to their faith and the ground was consecrated within the church as a Catholic holy ground – could they refuse ceremonies to all non-Catholic weddings? Or would that discriminate against muslims, jews, protestants, atheists, and gays?

    • I can only see that falling on the side of discrimination if one has an expectation of having a RIGHT to a (specifically-) Catholic wedding ceremony.

      I would have to say that in this scenario they could only refuse ceremonies to those who do not fulfill the explicit requirements of a Catholic wedding, which the Catholic Church has 100% authority to set. Among other things, the individuals of other non-Catholic faiths would have to convert to Catholicism (or at least be baptized as a Christian).

      –Dwayne

      P.S. And just to be pedantic, the Sacrament of Marriage is actually not performed by the Priest–it is performed by the people marrying each other by saying the vows.

  12. Isn’t this similar to the case where a male student didn’t want to participate in an assignment at a secular university where women would also be present because of his religion. As I remember, the professor declined and in the end the student gave in. (The whole thing was strange to begin with as I can’t think of a religion where men are not allowed to be together with women in a public place or speak with women…)
    In this case human rights trumped religious rights.

    Lesson to be learned from the Gifford case: if you want to discriminate based on your religion, don’t try to get paid while you’re at it…

    • Except I think that’s a false distinction that isn’t anywhere, implied or otherwise, in the Constitution. This is (and I should have clarified it) a true ethics conflict, the ethical nature of public accommodations which must be available to all citizens, and free speech. Free speech has to prevail.

  13. This lesbian couple is taking it too far. The Christian couple have every right to refuse any service to any one they want. By taking this prideful, shaming, selfish, self-centered, inferiority complex, attention seeking, unclassy, disgraceful and uneducated action of going into court, they’re making more people dislike the homosexual community. Their arrogance and stupidity may contribute to the increase of hate crimes against gay people. This is not a triumph for the homosexual community, rather, it causes unease and probably resentment against them. This is injustice. Suddenly following a religious law is a crime. I hope that this couple will never be able to find any job in the future.

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