Idaho state Sen. Steve Vick says one U.S. city’s efforts to force a Christian wedding chapel to perform homosexual marriages in his state is a blatant violation of the Constitution, and he is seriously considering legislation to get the state government out of marriage entirely because he fears churches will be the next target in the aggressive homosexual agenda.
Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled Idaho’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman was unconstitutional. While that decision was placed on hold during the appeals process, officials in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, informed Hitching Post wedding chapel owners Donald and Evelyn Knapp that they would be required to perform same-sex ceremonies or face jail time and fines if the court’s decision stood. Last week, the Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriages to go forward in the state.
The Knapps have operated the Hitching Post since 1989. They are Bible-believing Christians who refuse to participate in ceremonies they believe are clearly condemned in Scripture. A legal fight is already underway, and the city has confirmed that they are in violation of a city ordinance for declining to marry same-sex couples.
A letter from Coeur d’Alene city attorney states, “[I]f they are providing services primarily or substantially for profit and they discriminate in providing those services based on sexual orientation then they would likely be in violation of the ordinance.”
Sen. Vick said he and the local community are outraged by the Coeur d’Alene’s treatment of the Knapps and anyone else seeking the free exercise of their faith.
“It’s very disappointing to me that they would require a Christian business owner to do something that violates their religious convictions, which I believe are protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Vick said. “Most of the reaction that I incurred has been from disappointment to shock that [the city] would do that.”
Vick has plans to meet with the Knapps later this week to discuss the ordeal. In the meantime, he expects the state legislature to address the issue. Vick admits there is no concrete legislation in place yet, but many lawmakers strongly believe the state needs to take action. The senator is personally investigating two approaches, the second of which may come as a major surprise to other conservatives.
“One is to try to re-establish the standing of those who have deeply held religious convictions,” Vick said. “Another potential avenue that I’m exploring is just eliminating marriage licenses in Idaho.”
Vick admits eliminating state sanctioning of marriage would be a big step, and he is only beginning to explore that option. Still, he said the response so far is very positive.
“I have discussed it with just a few people,” he said. “I don’t have a bill drafted or anything. I have discussed it at some of the town halls I’ve been at. It actually seems to be fairly well-received. In my opinion, if we’re not allowed to determine the standards for a marriage license, then maybe we should just not issue them.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Idaho state Sen. Steve Vick:
The senator says these are the kind of things states must consider since the will of the voters is being rejected in the federal courts.
“I believe the only way the Supreme Court will hear it is if a different circuit court rules differently. I haven’t seen that yet, but if another circuit ruled that a state could keep on their books a constitutional amendment or a statute that says marriage should be between one man and one woman, then I think the Supreme Court would have to hear it. Other than that, I think these rulings will probably stand,” said Vick, referring to the high court refusing to hear appeals from multiple states after judges struck down voter-approved constitutional amendments establishing traditional marriage as law.
While Vick remains concerned for Christian business owners like the Knapps, he believes efforts to force believers into approving and participating in same-sex weddings are already targeting the church itself.
“I believe the next step will be to say that churches themselves cannot discriminate,” he said. “They cannot discriminate, and the church will have to marry same-sex couples and not be allowed to say anything. Clearly they’re going after the freedom of the church’s speech through the hate-speech statutes.”
For Vick, officials in Coeur d’Alene and elsewhere are guilty of assaulting freedoms that are the cornerstone of America.
“I still believe [they] are requiring someone to violate a long-held and well-established religious conviction,” he said. “It’s not like somebody established a new religious conviction to discriminate. This is a well-established belief that’s been held by most of the people in the Christian church for over 2,000 years. So, I don’t know that the state should be involved in choosing whose rights to violate.”