Religious Liberty and the Wedding Vendor CasesBy Mr. Travis Weber Director, Center for Religious Liberty
Adam Burton also contributed to this paper.
People of faith have increasingly found themselves being sued (along with receiving censure and hostility) when they refuse to engage in work-related activities that violate their religious beliefs on marriage and sexuality. This scenario has played out most prominently in the wedding industry, where small business owners are being forced to make the choice between violating their faith and freely running their business.
This legal conflict lies at the intersection of religious freedom and laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI laws), which are being used to coerce and penalize small business owners. Many of these men and women featured below have already been compelled by the government to violate their consciences and act against their religious beliefs, which is unacceptable in any free country.
Public accommodation laws have long protected individuals from being denied service because of their status as a member of a protected class. These laws were necessary as part of the noble effort to put an end to widespread and state-sponsored racial discrimination.
Over the years, different jurisdictions have expanded the classes protected by these laws. Today, SOGI laws are increasing in prevalence around the country and generally compel equal treatment (and thus approval) of the sexual conduct engaged in by those who self-identify as homosexual or transgendered.[i] Though religious freedom can be minimized and curtailed by any number of alleged governmental justifications or rationales, many of the threats to religious freedom (and free exercise, free speech, and free expression) today come in the form of SOGI laws—as wedding vendors refusing to participate in same-sex marriages are sued on the basis of sexual orientation discrimination.