Sunday, March 29, 2015

Videographer Latest to Deny Service for Same-Sex Wedding Ceremony

Yet another privately owned small business has been put under the national spotlight after refusing to provide services to a same sex couples wedding ceremony.  Just one of many cases that have frequented the news and court system recently, however there seems to be a greater precedent being set forth regarding cases like these.

In this case, a company called Next Door Stories in Ohio, whose job is to film big moments in people’s lives for them, namely weddings, has denied its services to a lesbian couple. The couple contacted the company and came across employee Courtney Schmackers. Over email, Schmackers responded to their request for her to record the ceremony by replying “Unfortunately at this time I do not offer services for same-sex weddings.” The couple then aired their grievances over social media, and it since has been picked up my major media outlets such as CNN. The couple claim to be very upset by being denied service, as Moffit told CNN, “I couldn't believe it. It is a small business, and I thought this was a tight-knit community. We wanted to support local commerce, and to get that kind of response was astounding.
Courtney Schmackers 

Recently, cases similar to this have been ruling against the small business, generally forcing reparations through fines. A florist in Washington state, a baker in Oregon and a photographer in New Mexico all lost their cases under religious claims that aiding a wedding ceremony for same sex couples was to them inherently wrong, and against their religious beliefs and principles. The precedent set forth in the Jack v Philips case basically gave the court the right to trump the business owners ability to operate his/her business in accordance to their religious practices due to a compelling state interest. Even though in his view, baking a cake for a same sex marriage would in his mind be a direct violation of what he claimed to be a core part of his religion, and that by the government forcing him to bake a cake for a ceremony such as this was essentially restricting his religious liberties. The court however ruled against the man. I think that if you applied that same precedent here, Next Door Stories would most certainly be forced to pay fines to the couple, and would lose the case as it is the same sort of denial of service.

Even though the courts have been ruling in favor of same sex couples and against denial of service based on religious beliefs as of late, people are still very unsure as to what the outcome of this case might be.  Grant Stancliffe, who is advocate for LGBT couples said, “This is one of those situations that shows how bizarre it is that Ohio as a state doesn’t have a statewide anti-discrimination law that covers gay and transgender people.”  So even though there are are certain municipalities that have ordinances against same sex discrimination for businesses, the town of Bexley is apparently not one of them, so technically by Ohio state law and the rules set forth by the chamber of commerce and the City of Bexley, Schmackers had every right to deny the couple service based on their sexual orientation.
Jenn Moffitt and Jerra Kincely 

In my opinion, I think that the precedent set forth in the Philips case is dangerous, and can be have the effect of limiting certain individual’s rights and abilities to practice their religion, and be able to conduct their business as they see fit. My problem is that these businesses have all been small and privately owned, and I believe they have the right to deny a certain service if it is in direct contradiction with their own personal beliefs. If they believe that this action is essentially equivalent to committing a sin, it is not the place of the government to tell them that they have to temporarily part from their religious beliefs to accommodate a couple who could easily find another business that would be willing to help them. I don’t believe that they should have complete and total ability to deny service in every circumstance. For example denying a member of the LGBT community general service for certain things is blatant discrimination which cant really be backed up by legitimate religious beliefs, but the fact that it is a wedding, and that this is a ceremony that many people in our country find “unholy” and “in direct opposition with their religious beliefs” is what in my mind justifies a business’s ability to deny service in this instance. I would argue that providing businesses with this ability is would not necessarily be wielded as a sword, but more of a shield to protect against the governments intrusive tendencies into religious freedoms and commerce. Also many of these cases have resulted in these businesses being boycotted, which has in turn forced them to go out of business, which is a practice I fully endorse. In the capitalist system in which we are operating I think it is up to the consumer to recognize when a company or business has certain discriminatory practices, and that they have the ability to stop being a customer if they detest their actions. Once again I am not saying that businesses should have the right to deny service to whomever they wish, but I think in cases that come into direct contradiction with their religion, they shouldn’t be forced to subdue their religious duties.


Alex L. said...

I agree with Nate that although it can sometimes be unfortunate, the religious freedoms of businesses’ must be protected. Obviously the recent law signed in Indiana and the ensuing hysteria highlight the relevancy of such instances as we see here in Ohio. The idea that the government can interfere and compel individuals to act in a manner inconsistent with core tenants of their faith is very unsettling. Next Door Stories in Ohio simply stated that they do not do same-sex marriages; it was not a malicious message. They have a right to refuse service to anyone they please and for whatever reason. Perhaps they couldn't do a heterosexual marriage because they were already booked that day. I agree with Nate’s closing point that the free-market can put these businesses at risk, but it still is a risk they put on themselves.

Adam Drake said...

I agree as well. My personal belief is that it is wrong to discriminate for any reason, but it is the right of the private business to refuse service. There was no hate speech involved, and if the people of the town are as appalled by this as I am they can protest or boycott Next Door Stories. Having a photographer is not a vital service and I am sure there are others in town who would provide their services to the couple. I agree with Nate that the precedent set in the baker case is a scary one. The judiciary should not have the right to compel private business owners to violate their religious convictions, but once LGBTQ individuals are included in anti-discrimination laws that should supersede the beliefs of the business owner.

Peter M said...

I agree with a Nate that that government would be violating the free exercise clause by forcing the videographer to violate her religious beliefs. As this videographer has the right to deny service for a wedding contradictory to her beliefs, members of society have the right to avoid giving business to this company.