Same-sex Weddings, and the Right Not to Perform Them

ON OCTOBER 7, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage. On Oct. 15, county clerks in the state for the first time issued marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Then, five days later came startling news out of the Idaho resort town of Coeur d’Alene: Two Christian ministers, owners of the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, had reportedly been told by local officials that they were now required to perform same-sex weddings, or risk fines of up to $1,000 and as much as six months in jail if they refused. Under the city’s antidiscrimination ordinance, the Hitching Post is considered “a place of public accommodation,” and refusing to marry couples on the basis of sexual orientation was no longer a legal option.

So the two ministers, Donald and Evelyn Knapp, filed a lawsuit, seeking to block the city from forcing them to host same-sex ceremonies in violation of their sincere religious beliefs. “The Knapps are in fear that if they exercise their First Amendment rights they will be cited, prosecuted, and sent to jail,” their attorney told reporters.