Can The Religious Legally Discriminate?: The Answer Is Maybe…
As I labour away trying to research for my follow up posts on Woo Juice, I thought I might reblog this story from Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. It’s a really nuanced issue- one that leaves me torn between opposing views:
The Chicago Tribune reports that a gay couple is suing two bed and breakfasts for refusing to rent facilities to them for a civil union ceremony.
The Beall Mansion in Alton told the Wathens via email that it “will just be doing traditional weddings.” The owner of the Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton wrote in an email to the couple: “We will never host same-sex civil unions. We will never host same-sex weddings even if they become legal in Illinois. We believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the Bible says about it. If that is discrimination, I guess we unfortunately discriminate.”
Here’s the legal situation:
The couple filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, which investigated and found “substantial evidence” that a civil rights violation had been committed.
The August finding allows the Wathens 90 days to file a complaint with the state Human Rights Commission or take civil action in Circuit Court. The Wathens’ attorney, Betty Tsamis of Chicago, told the Tribune that her clients have chosen the latter path and will file lawsuits against both businesses as early as next week.
This action, should it proceed, could bring to the courtroom a debate over the boundary lines between religious freedom and discrimination in Illinois.
I’m unsure how I feel about this. I think there is a difference between an “Event”, like a wedding, ceremony, convention or meeting- and just being a person who happens to offend someone elses sensibilities.
I think that business owners should not be able to discriminate who stays in a hotel room, or who they serve in their restaurant. I think holding an event at their premises is a different thing altogether. At the same time, I think turning away customers who want to hold a wedding- just because you don’t agree with the relationship- is stupid. Though as I mentioned in the comments, I would like to have the right as a business owner to turn away certain groups for events I did not agree with.
Any thoughts on this? John? Jeremy? Darwin?