- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2015

When Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson said Sunday that Christian merchants aren’t required to attend same-sex weddings in order to serve them, he was apparently overlooking photographers like Elaine Huguenin.

Mr. Wolfson rejected claims that Christian business owners are being “forced to participate” by providing services to same-sex ceremonies, telling “Fox News Sunday” that “they weren’t being forced to come to the wedding, they weren’t forced to perform the wedding.”

“They were being obliged to serve a cake in the same way they serve a cake to anybody else who comes in their shop, whether that person be black or white, gay or non-gay, a man or a woman,” Mr. Wolfson said.

That may be true of Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who refused to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding, but Ms. Huguenin was found to have violated New Mexico anti-discrimination law by declining to shoot pictures at a same-sex commitment ceremony in 2006.

She lost her appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2013.

Similarly, Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman said in a court brief that her floral services for marriage ceremonies include “full-time wedding support for long-time customers, including set-up at the ceremony and assisting the wedding party at the event.”

Ms. Stutzman was sued in 2013 by a customer, Rob Ingersoll, for whom she had provided floral arrangements for nine years. She filed an appeal in April with the Washington Supreme Court after being ordered to pay penalties and attorneys’ fees at the lower-court level.

Other gay-rights advocates have argued that business owners who refuse to provide services for gay weddings based on religious objections have two choices: They can stop serving weddings altogether, or they can go out of business.

The Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shackelford argued Sunday that there’s a difference between providing services for a same-sex wedding and serving a cheeseburger to a gay customer.

“If you look at all these attacks on florists, on wedding photographers, they’re never saying, ‘We won’t serve you,’” Mr. Shackelford said on “Fox News Sunday.” “They’re never saying, for instance, ‘We won’t give you a cheeseburger because we’re gay.’ And I don’t know any of denomination of the over 400 Christian denominations that would say that that’s what you do.”

He said such cases “are about forcing people to participate in other people’s weddings.”

Gay-marriage advocates have argued that Christian business owners who object to providing services for same-sex ceremonies can opt instead to stop doing weddings altogether or go out of business.

Mr. Shackelford argued that the state of Oregon had violated the Kleins’ First Amendment rights by ordering the bakers to pay $135,000 to the lesbian couple, but Mr. Wolfson countered that religious freedom was a “separate issue from whether a business must serve people in the business.”

The final order from the Oregon labor commissioner Thursday night said the Kleins must pay $135,000 in “emotional damages” resulting from their refusal to provide a wedding cake for the couple’s gay wedding in 2013, before Oregon began performing same-sex marriages.

“Let’s not confuse one thing with the other,” Mr. Wolfson said. “People have an absolute right to believe what they want to believe and to say what they want to say, and churches have an absolute protection to preach and do and not do whatever they choose to do within their houses of worship.”

At the same time, he said, “those beliefs can’t be used as the basis for denying other people their equal rights and their equal freedom.”

Mr. Shackelford said the result is that religious believers may hold their beliefs “from the privacy of their own homes in a whisper,” quoting from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent.

The Kleins said last week on Facebook that they “will NOT give up this fight,” indicating that they may appeal the state’s order to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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