Minister Sues Ohio County Over Anti-Discrimination Policy That Forces Officiation Of Same-Sex Marriages
Jul 30, 2020
A Christian wedding officiant is suing Ohio’s Cuyahoga County over a recently passed anti-discrimination law alleging it violates her constitutional freedoms to avoid marrying same-sex couples.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Kristi Stokes, owner of Covenant Weddings, accusing the county of forcing her to perform same-sex weddings or face prosecution under a new ordinance that bans discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation, gender identity and expression” in places of public accommodation.
Since Stokes’ business only offers wedding services that “celebrate marriage between one biological man and one biological woman,” she could face civil penalties between $1,000 and $5,000 by declining to officiate same-sex marriages. ADF argues that the case is not based on the discrimination of marriages outside of that between a man and a woman, but instead looks to preserve the protected freedoms of speech, religion, and press for Christian marriage-related businesses.
“The county’s law has left Kristi with an impossible choice: disobey the law, defy her faith, desecrate her ministry or ditch her business. None of these options are acceptable. To Kristi. To her faith. Or to the First Amendment,” ADF stated. "The government shouldn't force people to celebrate events that conflict with their deeply held religious beliefs and that's exactly how this law is operating.”
Mary Louise Madigan, a spokeswoman for the county, said that once attorneys receive service of the lawsuit, they will review it and vigorously defend it, stating, “It’s an important piece of legislation written and passed to ensure equal access and opportunity for all citizens of Cuyahoga County.”