Gordon Klingenschmitt’s failed attack on anti-discrimination law

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

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.


  1. I don’t know when it became the cause for “Christians” to not cooperate with anything they disagree with, but I wish they would grow up and at least TRY to get along with people. I guess having free run of pretty much everything for the last 40 years or so has given them the idea that they don’t have to share with the rest of us, that they get to rule over us all regardless of what the law or the constitution say about that, and that they HAVE to get THEIR way no matter what, or we’re PICKING ON THEM!

    For decades I listened to them complain about how gays wanted special rights when all they really wanted was to be treated like everyone else and given the same rights as everyone else. Now I hear from these same people that THEY should be given special rights because they are religious. This seems awfully selfish, arrogant and childish as well as hypocritical. And it is.

    Where did Christ say anything about gays, in specific? Funny, but in my readings of the Gospels, I don’t recall ANYTHING specific about gays at all in there. If you’re a CHRISTian, you follow CHRIST. If you’re practicing hate, you are NOT following the words of the man you’re claiming as your savior.

    The whole cake thing is silliness. A baker’s JOB is to bake things like cakes. The baker is NOT being asked to officiate, participate, attend or in any way condone the event. That’s NOT their job, that’s not the business THEY put THEMSELVES in. They certainly aren’t being asked to involve themselves in the couple’s life or lifestyle. Just do what they SAY they do professionally, make a baked good.

    To refuse to do business with gays because they are gay is no different than not doing business with minorities of ANY kind, it’s just plain wrong, as well as illegal. In a society like this, there are all kinds of people living in the same country. Unless we all get along, it’s just going to devolve into complete chaos and civil war. And all over things like some refusing to treat others civilly. What a shame that the religious are the ones NOT getting along with others, and using their religion as their excuse.

    Part of getting along is learning how to be CIVIL with each other. Most of us learn that in elementary school. It seems that those like Dr Chaps, here, need to go back and relearn that lesson.

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