Boise State Public Radio is reporting that Donald and Evelyn Knapp, Christian ministers who own the Hitching Post wedding chapel will not have to perform same-sex marriages. The couple had been threatened with fines and even jail time for refusing to marry same-sex couples according to the town’s anti-discrimination law.
Initially, the Knapps were told they had to obey the law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, because the Hitching Post was a for-profit commercial business.
Coeur d’Alene attorney Mike Gridley sent a letter to the Knapps saying they had to become a not-for-profit to be exempt, then later retracted the letter when he discovered that the law makes no such distinction.
“After we’ve looked at this some more, we have come to the conclusion they would be exempt from our ordinance because they are a religious corporation,” Gridley explained.
Last month, the Hitching Post reorganized as a limited liability company, stating in its operating agreement that “The Hitching Post is a religious corporation owned solely by ordained ministers of the Christian religion who operate this entity as an extension of their sincerely held religious beliefs and in accordance with their vows taken as Christian ministers. The purpose of the Hitching Post is to help people create, celebrate, and build lifetime, monogamous, one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.”
Leo Morales of the ACLU of Idaho said the exemption makes sense as long as the Hitching Post primarily performs religious ceremonies.
“However, if they do non-religious ceremonies as well, they would be violating the anti-discrimination ordinance,” Morales said. “It’s the religious activity that’s being protected.”
The Knapps are now free to exercise their religion while performing a vital service to the community.
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