Advice for Same-Sex Couples on How to Navigate Anti-Gay Discriminatory Laws

Same sex victoryThis November, Missouri voters will be able to pass an amendment that will enshrine in the Missouri Constitution the right to discriminate against same sex couples on the grounds of a sincere religious belief.

With a change in their procedural rules, Missouri Republican Senators stopped a thirty-nine-hour filibuster of the anti-gay bill, sending it to the Missouri house. The Missouri house is expected to pass the bill, allowing it to be on the November ballot. (NOTE: The Missouri legislature went the constitutional amendment route because the bill would have been vetoed by the Democratic Missouri governor.)

The bill has three basic protections.

  1. It prohibits the state from imposing on any clergy or other religious leaders that refuse to participate in a same sex marriage based on a sincere religious belief.
  2. It prohibits the state from imposing a penalty on any religious organization that declines to make its buildings or other facilities available for same sex marriage ceremonies based on a sincere religious belief.
  3. It prohibits the state from imposing a penalty on an individual who declines either to personally be a participant in a wedding or marriage or to provide goods or services of expressional or artistic creation, such as a photographer or florist, for a wedding or marriage or a closely preceding or ensuing reception therefore because of a sincere religious belief concerning marriage between two persons of the same sex.

The first two protections are unnecessary. Although the Supreme Court has granted a fundamental right to marry to same-sex persons, Justice Kennedy was clear in his majority opinion: “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”

So the only reason for the amendment is to allow bakers and florists to refuse to provide goods and services for weddings involving same sex couples.

I wrote a blog advising those opposing same-sex marriages to learn how to discriminate and suggesting that for something as important as a wedding, same-sex couples might want to use vendors who supported them.  However, in light of the egregious nature of this amendment,  I’ve now got some advice for same-sex couples on how to get around it.   (DISCLAIMER Although I’m an attorney, I’m not licensed by the Missouri bar so this is friendly advice).

The amendment requires the  discrimination be related to a “wedding or marriage or closely preceding or ensuing reception.” So same-sex couples – here’s the trick. Don’t tell the baker / florist / photographer that you want services related to your wedding. Call it an engagement or anniversary event. Tell them that you’re gonna need a cake for a huge wedding-like reception, which is a test run for the wedding you’ll have in a year (remember – it’s important that the event not be “closely preceding” a marriage). Or tell them that it’s a huge anniversary party. Tell them that you snuck off to California before Prop 8 was passed in 2008 or that you got married in Massachusetts any time after May 14, 2004. Again, just pick a date so that you don’t fall into the “closely ensuing” category.

Let’s show the Missouri legislature that the LGBT community won’t allow a little discrimination in their constitution to stop our marriage celebrations.

I’m quite emotional about this issue because of how important marriage has been to me. As a kid who thought God didn’t love me or He wouldn’t have made me this way, the right to be married had a profound impact on my life. On June 26, 2015, the day that the decision was announced, my husband and I gathered at a huge rally in Palm Springs, California. After a lot of speeches, someone finally had the good sense to just read a portion of Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. The last paragraph brought tears to my eyes and even as I write this blog, I have a tissue at the ready. Never in my entire life have I felt more validated as a human being who happens to love someone of my same gender. Justice Kennedy wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

I have no doubt that the portion of the amendment that allows bakers and florists to discriminate won’t survive a Supreme Court challenge. Until then, I hope the LGBT community will work hard to undermine its impact and fight for equal dignity with a little white lie.