If Taylor Schumaker had known the University Club in downtown Moline, Illinois blatantly discriminated against same-sex couples, she wouldn’t have bothered inquiring about holding her wedding reception there. When Bar Manager Kristen Stewart offered to give Schumaker and her fiancé (“he”) a tour of the facility and learned that “he” was in fact “she,” she abruptly rescinded the offer because “we don’t rent to homosexual couples.” When WQAD caught up with Stewart —whose husband is President of the University Club — she defended her decision with her religious beliefs:
STEWART: I am a biblical Christian and I do not believe in homosexual marriage, that’s correct. And because marriage is a covenant that God created for man and woman, as a biblical Christian, I cannot help them into or celebrate that sin. My husband’s family does not hold the same view. If there is a homosexual couple I will pass them onto them. I have told him if they want to do homosexual receptions I would not have any part of that. He and his family have decided they will.
Though same-sex marriage is not legal in Illinois, the state does ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, suggesting Stewart’s decision is unlawful. Though Schumaker was hurt by the experience, she and her fiancé (she) are looking elsewhere.
Just today, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council sent an email asking conservatives to oppose the “discrimination” imposed by the “homosexual rights movement,” citing three similar examples of Christians refusing to abide by nondiscrimination protections:
CLAIM: “Catholic Charities of Boston–forced out of the adoption business after more than 100 years and surrendered their license because they would not obey the state’s mandate to place orphans with same-sex couples.”
REALITY: Catholic Charities had two choices to continue its work: stop relying on government subsidy or stop discriminating against same-sex couples. They gave up entirely. When Catholic Charities faced the same dilemma in Illinois, a judge upheld the state’s right to pull funding because of the agency’s discriminatory practices.
CLAIM: “Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a historic New Jersey Christian camp, ordered by a judge to allow same-sex ‘commitment’ ceremonies on their property, even though it violated their religious views.”
REALITY: The pavilion’s tax-exempt status was part of a recreational real estate agreement with the state to ensure its availability to the public. It was not tied the church’s religious designation.
CLAIM: “Marcia Walden, a counselor with the Centers for Disease Control, fired when she politely declined to help a lesbian continue a same-sex relationship. Marcia, a Christian, felt she wasn’t the best counselor.”
REALITY: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Walden’s firing — not because of the anti-gay religious beliefs she held, but because of her insistence upon imposing them on clients.
The question at stake isn’t even same-sex marriage, but whether or not religious beliefs qualify as legal criteria for discrimination. Conservatives will likely come to Stewart’s defense, claiming that she is the victim. But the real victims are the LGBT people who are routinely treated as second-class citizens in society.