It appears many are surprised that liberal politicians are looking for ways to ban the restaurant chain “Chick fil A” from opening their businesses as a result of the CEO Dan Cathy’s personal stance on traditional marriage. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Boston Mayor Tom Menino, and now San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee have already said that Chick fil A was not welcomed in their cities.
However, this is not the first time such an instance has happened to a private business owner, professional, or private property owner since the legalization of same sex marriage. In June of 2008 National Public Radio documented a number of cases when controversies arose:
Adoption services: A same-sex couple in California applied to Adoption Profiles, an Internet service in Arizona that matches adoptive parents with newborns. The couple’s application was denied based on the religious beliefs of the company’s owners. The couple sued in federal district court in San Francisco. The two sides settled after the adoption company said it will no longer do business in California.
Wedding services: A same sex couple in Albuquerque asked a photographer, Elaine Huguenin, to shoot their commitment ceremony. The photographer declined, saying her Christian beliefs prevented her from sanctioning same-sex unions. The couple sued, and the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found the photographer guilty of discrimination. It ordered her to pay the lesbian couple’s legal fees ($6,600). The photographer is appealing.
Wedding facilities: Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of New Jersey, a Methodist organization, refused to rent its boardwalk pavilion to a lesbian couple for their civil union ceremony. The couple filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The division ruled that the boardwalk property was open for public use, therefore the Methodist group could not discriminate against gay couples using it. In the interim, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection revoked a portion of the association’s tax benefits. The case is ongoing.
Youth groups: The city of Berkeley, Calif., requested that the Sea Scouts (affiliated with the Boy Scouts) formally agree to not discriminate against gay men in exchange for free use of berths in the city’s marina. The Sea Scouts sued, claiming this violated their beliefs and First Amendment right to the freedom to associate with other like-minded people. In 2006, the California Supreme Court ruled against the youth group. In San Diego, the Boy Scouts lost access to the city-owned aquatic center for the same reason. While these cases do not directly involve same-sex unions, they presage future conflicts about whether religiously oriented or parachurch organizations may prohibit, for example, gay couples from teaching at summer camp. In June 2008, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asked the California Supreme Court to review the Boy Scouts’ leases. Meanwhile, the mayor’s office in Philadelphia revoked the Boy Scouts’ $1-a-year lease for a city building.
Medical services: A Christian gynecologist at North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group in Vista, Calif., refused to give his patient in vitro fertilization treatment because she is in a lesbian relationship, and he claimed that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. (The doctor referred the patient to his partner, who agreed to do the treatment.) The woman sued under the state’s civil rights act. The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in May 2008, and legal experts believe that the woman’s right to medical treatment will trump the doctor’s religious beliefs. One justice suggested that the doctors take up a different line of business.
Psychological services: A mental health counselor at North Mississippi Health Services refused therapy for a woman who wanted help in improving her lesbian relationship. The counselor said doing so would violate her religious beliefs. The counselor was fired. In March 2001, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with the employer, ruling that the employee’s religious beliefs could not be accommodated without causing undue hardship to the company.
Housing: In New York City, Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a school under Orthodox Jewish auspices, banned same-sex couples from its married dormitory. New York does not recognize same-sex marriage, but in 2001, the state’s highest court ruled Yeshiva violated New York City’s ban on sexual orientation discrimination. Yeshiva now allows all couples in the dorm
In April, The New American reported on a Kentucky t-shirt company that declined to do business with an LGBT group, because the owners of the company explained that doing so would go against their Christian values:
The official discrimination complaint filed with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission reads: “On or about March 8, 2012, members of the GLSO were told that our Pride Festival t-shirt printing quote would not be honored due to the fact that the t-shirt company is a Christian organization. We were told that our t-shirts would not be printed. We believe that we have been discriminated against in violation of Local Ordinance 201-99, based on sexual orientation.”
Kent Ostrander (above), executive director of the Family Foundation of Kentucky, explained that the owners of Hands On Originals were not immediately aware that they were bidding on a project that violated their values. What they told the homosexual group “in a very kind way was, ‘This is against our conscience. We don’t want to be a part of the gay-pride parade.’” Ostrander added that the business owners had located another T-shirt business that would honor their low quote, so no one was harmed.
Nonetheless, the homosexual group filed a complaint with the city, and, while the county’s Human Rights Commission typically deals only with discrimination complaints against individuals and not groups or businesses, because Lexington’s human rights ordinance includes no religious exemption for businesses, the owners of Hands On Originals could end up being fined for their moral stand.
A local Denver area cake shop recently told radio’s KCNC that it does not bake wedding cakes for homosexual marriages:
Owner Jack Phillips told sister station KCNC that he has no animosity towards the gay community, and is simply refusing because he doesn’t support gay marriage.
“If gays come in and want to order birthday cakes or any cakes for any occasion, graduations or whatever, I have no prejudice against that whatsoever. It’s just the wedding cake, not the people, not their lifestyle,” Phillips said.
KKTV reports that dozens of protesters “swarmed” the cake shop in Lakewood on Saturday and are planning a larger protest next weekend.
The Chick fil A debate will continue forward. The ACLU of Illinois already said to FoxNews.com that “The government can regulate discrimination in employment or against customers, but what the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words.”
The Boston Globe recently reported that Mayor Menino remarked:
“Originally, I said I would do everything I can to stop them.’’ Menino said in an interview at City Hall. “And that was mostly using the bully pulpit of being mayor of the city and getting public support. But I didn’t say I would not allow them to go for permits or anything like that. I just said we would do everything we can, bully pulpit-wise.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Sun Times on Monday that he has “no regrets” for his original reaction to Mr. Cathy’s statements:
“And the simple reason is, when it comes to values, there’s a policy as it relates to gay marriage. The values of our city are ones that welcome and recognize that and I will continue to fight for that.”
Last week, Emanuel hinted strongly that he was prepared to join Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) in blocking Chick-fil-A from opening its first free-standing Chicago store in Logan Square.
WBEZ writes, that Moreno wants Chick fil A to put in writing that it “won’t support any groups with a political agenda, including those with an anti-gay marriage stance” before he’ll consider allowing zoning rights to a Chick fil A restaurant in his ward.
“If they’re serious about that, and they’re willing to put that in writing and they’re willing to adopt that. I think those are the grounds where we can move forward,” Moreno said.
The Chicago Republican Party has threatened to file a complaint with Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Attorney General’s office over Moreno’s and Emanuel’s comments.
There are no Chick fil A’s in San Francisco, but the city’s Mayor, Edwin Lee, tweeted last Thursday “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.” Mayor Lee’s office refused to answer several press inquires as to whether Mr. Lee was ready to put up a legal battle to back up his statement.