Well, Indiana did it. Their legislature had the nerve to pass a law at the state level that provides the same protections as the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The liberal talking heads from Sally Kohn to Hillary Clinton are apoplectic with the vapors over this saying it will usher in a new era of discrimination and #BoycottIndiana popped up. The response on social media and in the press stopped the progress of a similar law in the Georgia State Legislature.
There's a town in #Indiana called French Lick. If you're gonna go all right wing anti-sexual freedom, maybe change that first…
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) March 29, 2015
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 27, 2015
This overblown reaction becomes downright comical when you understand at least 20 states have similar laws. Yet no one can cite a single case where it has been used as an acceptable defense to implement Sharia Law, excuse beating your spouse or child, or to deny essential services for anyone. It becomes even more comical when you look at the 1993 federal law’s history. It was sponsored by none other than Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), passed in a bi-partisan vote and signed into law by Bill Clinton.
So why all the fuss? My best guess is cake, flowers and photography. LBGT activists have been using anti-discrimination laws to troll businesses that perform services for weddings and make examples out of those business owners with a religious objection to gay marriage. Some businesses have been bankrupted with legal fees and others have had onerous agency requirements for monitoring imposed. The state courts have been used as a weapon to punish and shame business owners who do not support the LBGT agenda based on religious beliefs.
Once the Supreme Court used the 1993 law as the basis to provide relief from provisions of Obamacare to Hobby Lobby and other privately held organizations whose owners had religious objections to certain forms of birth control, the LBGT movement took notice. The basis for the Hobby Lobby majority opinion was the lack of a compelling interest for government to force Hobby Lobby to acquiesce given the alternative ways those services could be provided. So how will state courts with similar laws view the compelling nature of forcing a photographer or a florist to provide services to a wedding they object to on religious grounds given the alternatives available for the same service? The LBGT movement would rather not find out and has launched campaigns full of misinformation and scare tactics where RFRA laws are under consideration.
So how do we equally protect the rights of gay couples wanting to wed and the right to religious freedom for those business owners who have deeply held religious beliefs that object? Perhaps the best solution I have seen is the law Utah passed. With a large faith based objection to gay marriage among Mormon residents the state worked very hard to compromise and come up with a single bill that accomplished both.
Barring that level of understanding and cooperation nationally, I have a few suggestions for business owners who object to participating in gay weddings based on deeply held religious beliefs. As a disclaimer, I am not an attorney, but clearly objecting based on religious convictions regarding gay marriage is taboo and may cost you a significant amount of money. Do not give them the satisfaction of suing you or ruining your business to prove a point. It is a losing proposition.
Suggestion #1: It seems to me no business owner is obligated to take every piece of business they are presented. The word unavailable comes to mind. There a hundred different ways to be unavailable. Find one.
Suggestion #2: Hire someone who does not object to gay marriage and will willingly bake a cake, arrange flowers or photograph the event. If it is your deeply held belief that you can not participate, so be it. If you believe you should not profit from it give the money to charity. Your losses will be far less than a lawsuit or a destroyed business.
Suggestion #3: Include in your service contract the right to subcontract any event of your choosing for any reason. Develop local partners or freelance staff that are willing to staff events you are uncomfortable with and allow them to collect the payment.
Suggestion #4: Be as honest as you can. Accept the business, but be clear you do not support gay marriage. Tell the couple they are in your book of business, but because of your deeply personal religious beliefs, you may not be capable of approaching their event with the same passion or excitement that you are sure they would want on their very special day. I personally interviewed 3-4 of every vendor I used for my wedding. I picked the ones I clicked with personally. Most couples will do the same. This option is likely to get you some bad press, but the key to it is you have not refused to serve someone.
Bottom line, the law can make it illegal for you to say no, it can not force you to be enthusiastic about it.