Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

Last week's Kentucky New Era (KNE) editorial "Don't give business prejudice a loophole" sounds good at first blush, after all who supports prejudicial business practices? But after one better understands the issue, the headline doesn't pass muster. It was in fact inaccurate and misleading. The editorial claims the bill would "legalize discrimination against gay and lesbian Kentuckians—and perhaps others."  The bill does no such thing.

SB 180, which passed the Senate last week by a vote of 22-16, is a measure to protect the religious freedom of business owners who are being coerced by the state to service events —like same-sex weddings, they find morally objectionable. A person is not an event. A wedding is. And that's primarily what SB 180 addresses—protecting the conscience rights of those business owners who believe participating in a same-sex marriage is sacrilegious. The KNE spins hypotheticals yet to materialize as reasons to oppose the legislation. Christian business owners who've had heavy fines exacted upon them don't have such a luxury.

Consider Robert and Cynthia Gifford, a Catholic couple in New York, who were fined $13,000 for refusing to rent their facility for a same-sex wedding.  Oregon bakers Tim and Melissa Klein were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman faces losing her business and entire life savings for refusing to provide a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding. Here in Kentucky, Hands on Originals owner Blaine Adamson spent two years of legal proceedings for refusing to print T-shirts for an LGBT parade. Many more examples exist, but clearly, if there is any heavy-handed discrimination happening, it is against Christians who try to operate their businesses according to their conscience. Make no mistake, the fines are not commensurate with the alleged wrongs. They are punishments doled out to dissenters of a political orthodoxy that is contrary to our constitution.

A balanced editorial would have reported that conservative Christians believe that marriage isn't just people; it is a religious ceremony between two people of the opposite sex. For years, opponents of same-sex marriage were told that they would not be forced to approve of gay marriage; business owners were assured they'd not be required to accommodate gay weddings; and pastors were promised they'd never have to officiate gay weddings. That was then, this is now, where deception masquerading as truth has reached its zenith and intolerance camouflaged as tolerance assaults First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion.

According to the editorial "it is not appropriate for a business owner to impose his or her beliefs on customers who want to have access to a community's full marketplace and not just part of it."  Absent a fixed moral benchmark such rhetoric is foolish and dangerous. Are we really to believe that business owners should acquiesces to every customer demand? Is the Jewish deli owner imposing his or her belief when they decline to serve a neo-Nazi event? After all, aren't  they depriving them access to "a community's full marketplace?"

To take deeply personal pictures of a couple's wedding ceremony is very different than selling film to a homosexual who wants to take pictures of that event. To sell a cake to a self-identified homosexual or lesbian is very different from asking a baker to ice a wedding cake with celebratory verbiage of gay unions.  To sell flowers to a homosexual is quite different from creating floral arrangements sprucing up a same-sex wedding often with messages celebrating same-sex weddings.

There are no cases of individuals refusing to provide goods or services to homosexuals. None.
The issue is over accommodating and participating in an event. It's a distinction here that some may not understand or even agree with, but a distinction nonetheless that both the Kentucky and U.S. Constitution protects.