Sunday, October 26, 2014

CDA City Attorney: Hitching Post a 'Religious Corporation,' Can't be Forced to Perform Same-Sex Marriages

Posted By on Sun, Oct 26, 2014 at 12:58 PM

In the push and pull between a North Idaho wedding chapel and Coeur d'Alene's ordinance barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, city officials are saying "I don't."

According to the Coeur d'Alene Press, City Attorney Mike Gridley declined to press charges against the Hitching Post, whose owners made national headlines after refusing to provide wedding services for same-sex couples, despite the recent court ruling legalizing gay marriage in Idaho and Coeur d'Alene's nondiscrimination ordinance.

"The [city] prosecutor has declined to pursue criminal charges because the Hitching Post is a religious corporation that is exempt from the city's anti-discrimination ordinance," the city stated in an Oct. 24 news release.

According to the Press, the city's position that the Hitching Post is a "religious corporation" is a reversal of its earlier stance. The Hitching Post—which has been marrying North Idaho couples for almost a century—is organized as a for-profit, registered limited liability company, but owners Don and Evelyn Knapp filed a federal civil rights suit against the city of Coeur d'Alene in mid-October, claiming its nondiscrimination ordinance violated their religious rights by requiring them to carry out same-sex marriages.

As a for-profit company, the Hitching Post would be held accountable to the nondiscrimination ordinance, but, the Press reports, the Knapps filed paperwork prior to their lawsuit establishing the Hitching Post as a for-profit business and a religious corporation.

From a letter sent by City Attorney Gridley to the Knapps' attorney: "as currently represented, the conduct by Hitching Post Weddings LLC is exempt from the requirements of the ordinance and would not be subject to prosecution under the ordinance if a complaint was received by the city."

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