Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Colorado Springs Republican, proposed a bill to give clergy and religious organizations the right to refuse to officiate services based on participants’ sexual orientation. Lucky for him, clergy already have that right to discriminate.
Klingenschmitt’s theory is that Colorado public accommodation law would force clergy to perform ceremonies that buck religious creed.
That’s plain wrong, said Rufina Hernandez, executive director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Clergy already have the right to say “no” to performing ceremonies that don’t square with their religious beliefs.
Agitated by the plight of bakers, florists and pizza shop owners who have been sued for refusing to cater same-sex weddings, Klingenschmitt and other socially conservative Christian pols have an angry movement of evangelicals behind them who say the LGBT community has flooded the nation with anti-Christian ideology and that Christians are the most persecuted people on the planet.
Their Colorado hobgoblin, the public accommodation law, requires any business that provides services to the public to offer them regardless of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry.
The law gained national prominence in 2012, after Lakewood baker Jack Phillips — widely dubbed a martyr in evangelical circles — refused to provide a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. The couple later sued and won a judgment against the bakery. Phillips appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which last year ruled in favor of the couple.
Public accommodations law has become a greater concern for clergy who oppose same-sex marriage in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer that same-sex marriage should be legal.
That’s what inspired Klingenschmitt, himself a minister, to sponsor a bill at the Capitol this week. House Bill 16-1123 failed on a 3-2 party-line vote in the Democrat-majority State Affairs Committee. Last year, he proposed a similar bill that also tanked.
Brian Severin of Victory Christian Fellowship in Greeley said if someone demanded pastors violate their conscience, they would never comply, he told the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Monday.
His wife, Jocelyn, also a pastor, added that as ministers, they would never perform a same-sex wedding, even if the government forced them too.
“God has ordained marriage as between one man and one woman,” she said. Klingenschmitt’s bill would protect her refusal to wed same-sex couples, she said, ignoring that the Constitution would too.
Severin pointed out that her nephew is gay, and while she loves him, she wouldn’t perform a marriage ceremony for him, either.
“Nobody would play football with basketball rules,” she said.
Kathy Escobar of The Refuge in Broomfield, who is a member of the Interfaith Alliance, said the bill would open the door to discrimination.
Said Escobar: “It’s much more focused on discrimination than freedom.”
Photo credit: Gordon for Colorado