Businesses and their employees who refuse to participate in same sex wedding ceremonies would be allowed to claim a conscientious objection and duck criminal or civil liability, under a bill that state Rep. Ron Young, R-Leroy, plans to introduce in the Ohio House.
Young told his fellow lawmakers in a memo on Thursday that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell versus Hodges will create unintended consequences for Ohioans who want to follow their deeply held beliefs.
“No one should be punished for exercising their constitutional rights to the exercise of their religion. This legislation will protect these rights,” Young wrote in a request for co-sponsors of the bill.
Young said the bill is aimed at protecting people in the wedding industry who could be subjected to local ordinances forcing them to participate.
“We will see what happens with this. My sense is it is wrong to force people to participate in something that is so charged and that has so many religious overtones.”
“This really seems exactly like an Indiana style religious freedom restoration act but just with fancier wording. It’s giving license to discriminate and we believe that all businesses open to the public should serve the public, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Lisa Wurm, policy manager for the ACLU of Ohio.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in March signed into law a controversial measure that allows businesses and individuals to assert as a legal defense that their exercise of religion was substantially infringed upon. The move spurred protests and threats by businesses that they’d halt expansion plans in Indiana.
Wurm said providing a service for a gay wedding is not an endorsement of that marriage, similar to providing a service or item for a baby shower is not an endorsement of out-of-wedlock births.
Conservatives in the Ohio General Assembly are pushing back against the Supreme Court decision. State Rep. John Becker, R-Cincinnati, who prides himself as the most conservative member of the Ohio House, wrote in his newsletter that he believes the decision will lead to legalization of group marriage.
“The language of the majority opinion is identical in every way to arguments in favor of sibling marriage and parent - adult child marriage. Furthermore, the language drew close parallels to arguments favoring polygamy. Prediction: Some form of group marriage will be legal within ten years. The question isn’t if; but when,” Becker wrote.
Wurm said clergy already have First Amendment protections against such scenarios.