Is Idaho forcing pastors to conduct same-sex weddings or face penalties?
Yes and no:
- It's a real (albeit recent) story
- There is a lawsuit, and it is in Idaho
- The people involved are "ordained Christian ministers"
- It's a city (Coeur D'Alene) ordinance, not the state's (Idaho)
- That the city "would" enforce the bylaw is the opinion of the Deputy City Attorney
- The lawsuit is a restraining order and injunction to prevent the city's enforcement
- The ordinance says that "Religious corporations and associations" are excepted from the by-law, and that the by-law doesn't intend to alter or abridge other laws like the First Amendment
The ordinance is meant to force commercial businesses, which provide services to the public, to do so without discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression.
It applies to commercial businesses, religious entities are exempt.
The claim is that the place in question is a for-profit business and not a church
The counter-claim seems (in my opinion) to be that the wedding service, decoration and accessories, as well as the pastors, are "religious".
Is it being enforced?
There is online evidence that the lawsuit exists, and that the ordinance exists.
I saw no evidence that the city is enforcing the law yet. The following paragraphs of the lawsuit say that according to the city attorney, the law "would" apply:
Mr. Knapp asked if the Coeur d’Alene anti-discrimination ordinance required him
and the Hitching Post to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Wilson or Gridley responded that the Coeur d’Alene ordinance would require Mr.
Knapp to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies and that Mr. Knapp was not exempt from this
The lawsuit is asking for a restraining order and an injunction, among other things, so to some extent it is pre-emptive (perhaps a small extent: they do seem to have reason to believe that the law would be enforced given time).
Do the ordinance and lawsuit exist?
The copy of the lawsuit which is linked in the first article of the OP, dated 10/17/2014, quotes city "Ordinance §9.56".
I haven't necessarily found the ordinance online.
Using Google I found two links which are labeled as the "proposed ordinance": link and link.
And, here is an extract of the ordinance from the official Coeur d'Alene web site: this extract only includes the portion which prohibits discrimination when renting housing.
Does the ordinance 'force pastors'?
Both copies of the "draft legislation" include a section:
A. Notwithstanding any other provision herein, nothing in this Chapter is intended to alter or
abridge other rights, protections, or privileges secured under state and/or federal law. This
ordinance shall be construed and applied in a manner consistent with First Amendment
jurisprudence regarding the freedom of speech and exercise of religion.
B. This chapter does not apply to:
- Religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies.
According to the lawsuit, there's a city attorney who thinks that the ordinance applies to weddings; for example, the lawsuit quotes this newspaper article:
“I think that term is broad enough that it would capture (wedding) activity,” city attorney Warren Wilson said.
Some further relevant paragraphs from the lawsuit include (the emphasis is mine),
- That article stated the following (emphasis added):
Wedding venues that turn away gay couples may violate local laws, such as Coeur
d’Alene’s prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation. The
provision adopted by the City Council last year applies to housing, employment
and places of public accommodation, including businesses that render public
services. “I think that term is broad enough that it would capture (wedding)
activity,” city attorney Warren Wilson said. Similar laws have applied to florists,
bakeries and photographers that have refused to work on same-sex weddings in
other states, Wilson noted. “Those have all been addressed in various states and
run afoul of state prohibitions similar to this,” he said. “I would think that the
Hitching Post would probably be considered a place of public accommodation
that would be subject to the ordinance.” In Washington, no clergy person is
required to marry a couple if doing so would violate the dictates of their faith
tradition. Idaho does not have a similar exemption in place, but religious entities
are exempt from the Coeur d’Alene ordinance, so pastors in the city are not
obligated to perform same-sex weddings. But any nonreligious business that hosts
civil ceremonies would fall under the city law, Wilson said.
Mr. Knapp asked Wilson if the Coeur d’Alene anti-discrimination ordinance required him and the Hitching Post to perform same-sex
Mr. Knapp also asked if he was exempt from the ordinance since he was an ordained minister.
Wilson responded that Mr. Knapp would have to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies because of the Coeur d’Alene ordinance.
Wilson also responded that Mr. Knapp was not exempt from the ordinance because the Hitching Post was a business and not a church
A large part of the lawsuit consists of evidence which tries to prove that the Knapps and the business are religious.