When the Minnesota Legislature convenes in St. Paul next month, it’ll head for a showdown over whether businesses who don’t favor same-sex marriage should be required to do business with same-sex couples. How broad the legislation is isn’t entirely clear yet, since it hasn’t been filed.
Perhaps we’re seeing a preview of it in Michigan this week where that state’s Senate may take action on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, legislation that’s similar to 19 states that have laws that either preserve religious liberty or undermine local non-discrimination ordinances or other state laws, depending on whom you talk to.
“People of faith need to be able to know that they can practice their faith in the way, in the tradition that their family has over many, many years, without being afraid of somehow violating the law,” incoming freshman Josh Heintzeman of Nisswa said last month in suggesting legislation that might give businesses a pass from the state human rights law in matters of doing business with gays.
Today, the New York Times looks at the increase in pushback from some wedding vendors.
“I do like doing the wedding cakes,” one Colorado cake maker at the heart of a battle in that state said. “But I don’t like having the government tell me which ones I can make and which ones I can’t make, and trying to control that part of my life.”
But the defenders of the shop owners argue that creating an artistically involved or personalized service for a same-sex wedding is a form of expression that should not be compelled by the government. They reject the discrimination charge, noting that many of the businesses have gay and lesbian customers, and, in some cases, employees.
“Anyone who would suggest this is not about freedom of religion doesn’t know or understand what religious liberty is about, which is the freedom to do what your conscience directs,” said Alan Sears, the president of the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Mr. Sears says he has experienced his own form of bias: He says that a photographer in Southern California declined to shoot a portrait of his family for a Christmas card after discovering that Mr. Sears heads an organization that opposes same-sex marriage. Mr. Sears said he supported the photographer’s right to refuse service, just as he would support a gay baker’s right to refuse to make a cake with an anti-gay message.
Vendors thus far have accumulated a losing streak in wedding and similar cases. In Kentucky, for example, a hearing officer recently ruled against a print shop owner who refused to make T-shirts for a gay pride group.
How many instances there are of businesses refusing to do business with gays is hard to pin down, the Times suggests, because many couples simply move on when they learn a business isn’t interested in being part of the ceremony.
Related: Minnesota: A religious-freedom enclave (for now) (Star Tribune).