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Annapolis, Md., Trolley Won’t Cater to Any Weddings, Joining a Handful of Business Owners in Other States

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Dec 28, 2012
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Although more and more Americans are accepting marriage equality, a handful of small business owners, citing their religious beliefs, so strongly oppose same-sex marriage that they say they are willing to lose business rather than have to cater to LGBT couples. A very few are denying services to such couples in the full knowledge that they are breaking anti-discrimination laws.

Discover Annapolis Tours is a beloved local institution whose old-fashioned trolley rides through Maryland’s historic seaport capital is popular with wedding parties. No longer, says owner Matt Grubbs, who told the Baltimore Sun that he won’t provide trolley rides to any couples getting married because he doesn’t support marriage equality.

Grubbs said he plans to post a full explanation about his decision on the business’ website Jan. 1, the first day when Maryland’s LGBT couples can get married in the Free State. By getting rid wedding ceremonies all together, Grubbs is able to bypass the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

"We’re a Christian-owned company, and we just can’t support gay marriages," Grubbs wrote in an email to a potential customer who wanted to use his company for a wedding, Patch reported. "We’re not trying to make a statement. We’re not trying to make a point. We’re just trying to be faithful Christians."

"If they’re providing services to the public, they can’t discriminate who they provide their services to," Glendora Hughes, general counsel for the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, told the Sun.

According to the Sun, Grubbs estimates to lose $50,000 a year in revenue by eliminating the wedding service.

"We would love to keep it open because a lot of people get engaged over Thanksgiving and Christmas and then call us," Grubbs said. "We hope to get back into it if we can get a religious exemption."

Grubbs wants Maryland’s General Assembly to grant his businesses the right to deny same-sex couples his services based on his Christian beliefs, Patch reports. He used the Sun article to send out a clarion call to Marylanders to contact state legislators to "request they amend the new marriage law to allow an exemption for religious conviction for the layperson in the pew. The law exempts my minister from doing same-sex weddings, and the Knights of Columbus don’t have to rent out their hall for a gay wedding reception, but somehow my religious convictions don’t count for anything."

Executive Director Carrie Evans of Equality Maryland, the state’s major gay rights organization, told the Sun that Grubb’s company is apparently the only business in the state nixing his wedding services to avoid working with gay couples. "As long as he doesn’t discriminate against other people, he’s free to do whatever he wants to do, including withdrawing his business from the industry," Evans said.

Business’ Religious Objections in Other States
Although Grubbs may be the only businessman exercising this tactic in Maryland, a very few businesses in other states that have legalized same-sex marriage preceded his action. Just a few days before the November election, Maine Public Broadcasting Network told of Linisa Beal, a photographer for the business she owns with her husband in central Maine, spoke out against the upcoming referendum on the issue -- the second time for Down Easteners, who voted it down last time.

"You know, whatever you vote on, it’s not really about you. You think about it as a society that, yeah, we’ll be persecuted. We’ll be persecuted for this interview, but God provides. He gives us what we need," she said. Before Maine residents voted to legalize same-sex marriage, Beal and her husband campaigned against the measure and had a "Vote No on One" placard in their yard.

Beal Family Photography focuses on "keepsake" moments, including newborns, proms, family reunions -- and weddings. Beal vowed that if Maine legalized gay marriage, the family-owned business would not offer its services for same-sex couples, despite the legal consequences.

"If a gay couple comes and asks to be photographed, I would - kindly - tell them, ’I’m sorry. My faith, my belief, doesn’t allow me to do that,’" Brent Beal, Linisa’s husband, said. "It says in the Bible, in Joshua Chapter 24:15, ’As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ That’s the stand that we take."

’We’re a Christian-owned company, and we just can’t support gay marriages.’

In 2005, Maine passed anti-discrimination laws that prohibit businesses from turning someone away based on sexual orientation, and in November, voters reversed themselves and approved same-sex marriage.

"They can take everything they want away," Brent Beal said. "They can take my business away. They can take my house away. They can take - take everything - my wife, my children, everything. But what I believe in is inside of me. They can’t take that away."

As of this writing, no gay couple has put the small business on the spot by requesting their services. But in case that has become a touchstone and rallying cry for the Evangelical Right, a photography studio in New Mexico was convicted of violating the state’s anti-discrimination law in January. As reported here, after a lesbian was told the studio wouldn’t shoot her wedding, the same studio pursued business from her partner after she contacted the studio without revealing her sexual orientation.

Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported on discrimination complaint a lesbian couple filed in October against Liberty Ridge Farm, near Albany, N.Y., for turning them away because of their sexual orientation.

Melisa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy said they filed the complaint because "We just want to know that the policy is being changed to fit the laws so this doesn’t happen to anyone else." The owners of the farm said they based their objections to gay marriage on their values and religious background.

"They still have children at home and they feel that their rights are being violated and they’re being discriminated against because of their position on the issue of gay marriage," said Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a group opposed to gay marriage.

Like the other states (and the District of Columbia) that have legalized same-sex marriage, New York State has very explicit "religious carve outs" that exempt any religion that opposes such marriages from having to accommodate same-sex weddings in their facilities.

But, as Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Susan Sommer noted at the time, said it’s well established that a business that serves the public is in violation of anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation. "If it opens its venue for weddings by the general public, it can’t then shut its doors on a same-sex couple," Sommer said.

McGuire is arguing that the religious carve out protects people like the Giffords, despite their farm not being a place of worship. McGuire argues there is a broader issue at work here, of basic religious freedom.

If the New York State Division of Human Rights determines blatant discrimination, Liberty Ridge would be under pressure to allow such weddings or not allow any weddings to take place there at all.

There is at least one other similar court case in New York. In September, a gay couple filed a lawsuit against a Chinese restaurant in Greenwich Village, which they allege canceled their wedding rehearsal dinner and refused to cater their wedding after a manager said he did not want any "gay parties." The restaurant has disputed the claim.

In August, a Vermont inn agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty to that state’s Human Rights Commission and to place $20,000 in a charitable trust to settle a lawsuit that accused the business of refusing to host a wedding reception for two women.

Meanwhile, in August, in Colorado, a baker in a Denver suburb became the focus of a mini-media frenzy when he refused to make a cake for a gay couple. The bakery became a cause celebré for both sides, with gay pickets facing people who flocked to the bakery in support. Since the state doesn’t recognize same-sex relationships, however, the baker isn’t subject to any type of official reprimand.

Comments

  • Oh Jed said:, 2012-12-28 08:59:04

    Jesus Christ on a cracker. ~DM


  • BlondieSL, 2012-12-28 09:06:15

    WOW! religious fear and hate are alive and well! It’s amazing how people will use religion to propagate their fear and hate. Imagine if a religion and it’s "ring-in-nose" followers openly dictated that they do not support Black People or Hispanic People (as an example) and that their followers cannot provide services to them. OH WAIT... things WERE like that not that long ago. I was alive to see it. It was horrible! Well that would not go over so well right now, would it? So why is discriminating against Gay people OK in their eyes? Well that’s because they believe in a novel that was written many years ago by hateful, nasty bitches who were nothing more than common-day control freaks using fear and hate to gain that control. Discrimination is discrimination, period. NO BUSINESS should be allowed any exemption to discriminate. NONE! Frankly, the Gov should just apply HUGE damaging fines then close down any business that discriminates in any way. Business has NOTHING to do with stupid, backward, dumb-assed, outdated religions. If they want to be racists and bigots, then do that in the privacy of their own homes. NOT IN *OUR* PUBLIC! If they want to be a seething hate monger, then don’t go into business. We can ALL sit at the front of the bus. Their hateful BS is sooooo yesterday. Time to update and move on. Sorry for my aggression on this/these subjects, but at my age, I’ve seen too much of this crap that I have ZERO patience for it. Just like with racism. Even as a child, I could not get my head around WHY people were racists. We are all humans and all deserve respect. I don’t say, "tolerated". I do not want them to "tolerate" me. They need to respect! Sadly, though. Racists/bigots propagate and train their youth to continue their hate. On the bright side, I think more and more of these same young people are realizing how wrong it is and moving away from what they were taught... I hope, anyway. :)


  • jimbodapimp, 2012-12-28 09:49:21

    What I like about this is we know which businesses to avoid ahead of time! I NEVER want a dime if my money to go to assholes like this! The oh so true part of this story is one of those idiots are gay and hiding in the closet. Have a nice life being scared of your sexuality!


  • WayGay, 2012-12-28 10:13:39

    Good. It’s all well and good for these people to "say" they don’t care about losing $50,000 a year in wedding business. First, I’d be surprised if that was the actual figure because no successful small business will survive losing that kind of money; second, wait to see the look on their faces when their church still expects their protection money and the stoolie comes up short. The trolly guy doesn’t understand the one true aim if the church: $$$What someone should do is open up a new trolly business and put the other out of business.


  • WayGay, 2012-12-28 11:04:39

    These intolerant old people are just like the old racists in the south that still use words like ’colored’They are an old and dying breed. They will get older and more crotchety and will eventually slip their intolerant mortal coil and head straight up to white heaven. Meanwhile the rest if society moves forward. Ignorance is not self perpetuating. Businesses like the trolly people are probably run by an old about to retire couple who get to use this as their last grand contribution to their political fight shaking their fists saying I’d rather retire than put up with this. Yeah, you were retiring anyway. Their trolly will become a faded memory and will disappear just as they will. Sad that their legacy is as unchristian as you can get: judging others, questioning God, and not loving thy neighbor. I suspect they will have much to answer for and they shouldn’t be surprised when they have a long wait outside the pearly gates while they ponder how they did what they could to hurt some if God’s children.


  • Bomonghani, 2012-12-28 17:38:54

    I have a lot of respect for him. His views don’t allow him to offer services to gays, so in lieu of excluding gays, he’s revoking services as a whole. How can we demand rights and yet deny the validity of others?


  • Bob K, 2012-12-29 00:17:13

    This is not where to put our effort if there’s more ways to get wedding transportation in that town.


  • c_c2013, 2012-12-29 01:22:37

    I too respected him for a while for denying all wedding services rather than singling out the gay community to refuse service to. However, he isn’t doing that out of "fairness" to both sides. He’s doing it so he can’t be sued. He blatantly states that its because of the new marriage law in Maryland. Respect = gone.


  • Anonymous, 2012-12-29 21:57:06

    The dilemma is reconciling thousands of years of Jewish and Christian teaching with major changes in sexual relationships. This is not simple bigotry.


  • tynker_belle, 2012-12-30 06:09:40

    So can my business refuse service to Christians because MY faith in atheism tells me they are INSANE and science, my religion, tells me to avoid the insane.


  • 2PTown, 2012-12-30 07:47:19

    Why is it that most organized religions equal hate? The Bible is some of the best FICTION ever written.


  • Anonymous, 2012-12-31 19:40:33

    If a private business does not want my business -- for whatever reason -- then I can go somewhere else. Bomo is right. We cannot scream about our rights, while denying others theirs simply because they do not agree with us. There are plenty of business that will gladly take the gay dollar.


  • BlondieSL, 2013-01-04 07:31:25

    Does anyone understand what Anonymous, 2013-01-04 -1:16:19 wrote? I wasn’t sure if it was part English and part some other language. Or, if some random characters and/or random words. I do not get it. Anyone??


  • BlondieSL, 2013-01-04 08:06:08

    Sorry. I don’t know how that posted 2 times. Must have been a delay and maybe I pressed submit again. Sorry about that. But about Gay marriage. Some fools actually believe that allowing Gay marriage will lead to allowing people to marry animals. Ok.... seriously.... straight guys, I’ve seen some of your wives. If you can marry a cow, then damnit, we can marry a bear! LOL :D


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