Gay Rights Movement Threatens Businesses

Venues, bakers and florists on receiving end of hate, harassment and lawsuits for holding to religious convictions; networks say little.

Even though gay marriage advocates often say those marriages won’t hurt others, business owners have been finding out that isn’t true. Companies, especially wedding-related ones, from several states have been sued and harassed for holding onto religious convictions.

The concept of "gay rights" has trampled religious liberty, but the network news media haven’t noticed. In fact, when Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins was on CBS in June, Bob Schieffer said he was “unaware” of such cases. In a year of coverage about discrimination cases involving gays, there was only casual mention of an attack on businesses out of 31 stories on the network news broadcasts (Nov. 1, 2012 through Oct. 31, 2013). And that was a casual comment about Chick-Fil-A. Even after additional searches for coverage of specific lawsuits, the broadcast networks have said almost nothing in recent years about the impact of gay rights and gay marriage on businesses.

The situation for businesses and Christian business owners could worsen if Congress passes the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The legislation "would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity," according to The New York Times. House Speaker John Boehner announced his opposition to the bill on Nov. 4, and the bill is not expected to be able to pass the House, according to The Washington Post.

Several states including New Mexico, Oregon, Illinois, Washington and Iowa each have their own state’s “Human Rights Act” or “Civil Rights Act” which prohibit discrimination by public businesses based on sexual orientation.

The wedding industry been hardest hit by the tension between religious liberty and gay rights, in spite of a recent Rasmussen poll showing that 85% of Americans think business owners should be allowed to deny services for gay weddings if they have religious objections. Other companies like Chick-Fil-A and Barilla Pasta have been targeted as well for making statements that angered gay activists.

In 2006, Elaine Huguenin, a Christian photographer in New Mexico, declined a request to photograph a “commitment ceremony” and was subsequently taken to court. She defended her religious rights but was ruled against by the New Mexico Supreme Court in August 2013. She was ordered to pay more than $6,000 in legal fees. In a concurring opinion on the case, one justice even stated that having to violate your religious beliefs when they conflict with social issues like gay marriage “is the price of citizenship.” The photographer and her attorneys are considering taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACLU and the Colorado attorney general are suing the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, a Colorado bakery, according to The Blaze. The owner is facing up to a year in jail time for refusing to bake a gay couple a wedding cake in 2012. The ACLU echoed the sentiment of the New Mexico court justice saying, “But someone's personal religious beliefs don't justify breaking the law by discriminating against others in the public sphere."

ABC reported that a Washington florist was sued in April by the state’s attorney general on behalf of a same-sex couple who were declined flowers for their wedding ceremony. The couple who sued the florist were regular customers of the florist for 10 years, but when the florist was asked to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, she told CBN, that she “had to take a stand.”

The florist is now counter-suing with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Washington Attorney General stated, “As an individual, she is free to hold religious beliefs but as a business owner, she may not violate our state’s laws against discrimination — no matter what she personally believes.”

Networks Barely Mention Harm to Businesses

ABC, CBS and NBC news programs have barely addressed the stories of business owners accused of anti-gay discrimination, or the ensuing harassment and lawsuits.

Apart from a few local news stories, the bulk of these reports have come from conservative and religious blogs and far left and gay websites. The liberal websites predictably attacked businesses for being “homophobic.” The Huffington Post even has “anti-gay companies list,” which includes chains like Chic-Fil-A, Domino’s Pizza, and Exxon but also charities like the Salvation Army.

CBS’ Bob Schieffer claimed to be “unaware” of any of these lawsuits in a June 30 interview with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins.

After Perkins cited cases in Washington, New Mexico and Colorado, where the state’s anti-discrimination statutes were being forced on religious business owners, Schieffer said, “This is under my radar, I haven’t—I haven’t heard this.”

Perkins then pointed out the failure of the media to cover the topic saying, “Well, you know, Bob, that`s a great point, because the media`s not reporting on this because they realize there`s a lot more behind this than the marriage altar. It’s literally about altering the landscape of America.”

While Schieffer plead ignorance, ABC found a way to spin the issue sympathetically for gay couples. In a July 13 episode of “What Would You Do?” ABC set up a fake bakery that denied services to actors portraying lesbians in front of unsuspecting strangers. This episode clearly was a mock-up of the real case of Christian-owned Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa. A lesbian couple sued the bakery for refusing to bake their wedding cake for religious reasons.

ABC chose not to report the real story. Sweet Cakes by Melissa shutdown after a “vicious boycott” along with obscene hate mail and death threats from LGBT community. Aaron Klein, owner of Sweet Cakes told Fox News’ Todd Starnes: “The LGBT attacks are the reason we are shutting down the shop. They have killed our business through mob tactics.”

Multiple wedding venues have been harassed as well. Owners of a venue in Iowa received angry emails, phone calls and death threats and are currently facing a lawsuit for refusing to let a gay couple use their venue to get married, according to The Blaze. There have been similar stories in Texas, and Vermont, according to a local NBC affiliate and TownHall.

The left has cheered on these lawsuits. Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern said in an article that argued discrimination is not "religious liberty": “But when a state bans private discrimination against gay people, there’s always a losing side – the homophobes. And even if these homophobes’ cause is bigoted, their seemingly principled stand in the name of religious liberty can evoke more sympathy than NOM’s shrill shrieks.”

And it isn’t just the wedding business.

A Christian T-shirt company was sued against in 2012 for refusing to print shirts for a LGBT gay pride festival in Kentucky. The courts sided with the gay rights group in the end.

Recently, when Guido Barilla of Barilla Pasta Company said he would not feature gay families in his company’s advertisements, gay rights activists in Italy launched a boycott but the backlash spread beyond Italy’s borders. The comment sparked social media attacks.

His simple statement that “sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company” made in an Italian radio interview was intolerable according to activists. Barilla has issued multiple apologies but it hasn’t been enough to pacify the left.

An account called “Boycott Barilla” posted this tweet on October 21:“Even the Pope is more liberal than homophobic #Barilla!” Gay actor George Takei also took to Twitter to bash Barilla with “I hear Barilla pasta is making a new product--bigotoni.” Harvard University even went so far as to stop serving the brand in their dining halls. The Huffington Post ran the story,“12 Pasta Brands That Haven’t Pissed Off Gay People.”

— Kristine Marsh is Staff Writer for MRC Culture at the Media Research Center. Follow Kristine Marsh on Twitter.