Imagine that you’re a kosher wedding hall, catering exclusively to Orthodox Jewish events, and you’re approached by two gay gentlemen who are looking to hire your services to cater their wedding (just before the Sefira). Well, if your establishment were anywhere in the state of New Hampshire, you could lose your operating license for refusing to accommodate them.
The New Hampshire House of Representative Wednesday defeated by a 246-85 vote a bill that would have allowed photographers, caterers and others to turn away wedding gigs if they had a religious objection to the marriage.
The prime sponsor of House Bill 1264, Rep. Jerry Bergevin, Republican from Manchester, said no one should be obligated to provide services if the transaction is repugnant to them, because of their religious beliefs.
“This bill is written to protect a person of faith when they leave their house of worship,” Bergevin told the Concord Monitor. “If a Jewish catering company refuses to serve pork, they should be able to. If a photographer wants to photograph only heterosexual couples, he would be protected to do so. If a photographer wants to photograph only same-sex couples, he would be protected to do that.”
But Rep. Barry Palmer, a Republican from Nashua, a member of the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission, told the Union Leader the bill was unconstitutional, illegal, immoral, and mean-spirited.
“I have a rough idea of what discrimination is,” he said. “This bill is illegal by state statute and illegal by federal law.”
New York legalized same-sex marriages back in June, 2011, but the New York law has a provision for businesses “being managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious corporation, benevolent order, or a not-for-profit corporation … shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges … Any such refusal to provide services … shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state or local government action to penalize, withhold benefits, or discriminate against such religious corporation, benevolent order, a not-for-profit explanation.”
“This should be a very alarming warning,” Rep. Bergevin said after the defeat of his bill. “It means we are moving into a brave new world. It may not be your ox being gored at the moment, but just wait, it will be.”
And said gored ox may not be the exclusive headache of Bergevin’s constituents. After all, “as New Hampshire goes, so goes the nation.” Political trends have a way of trickling down to the more populated states, where clashes against the background of newly legalized gay marriages could end up impoverishing religious businesses.
About the Author: Tibbi Singer is a veteran contributor to publications such as Israel Shelanu and the US supplement of Yedioth, and Jewish Business News.
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