When Donald and Evelyn Knapp spoke to lawyers and the press over the last week they told a big fib. Claims have been running rampant across the conservative and religious blogosphere about how they, as ministers, have been forced to perform same-sex marriages in their church thus violating their first amendment rights.
Earlier this year the city of Coeur D’alene, Idaho, passed an ordinance requiring all businesses render equal services to members of the LBGT community. This seems unnecessary in today’s age. However, discrimination based on sexual orientation is still legal in many states and is not protected at the federal level. It has not been added to the Civil Rights Act. Prior to this local ordinance being signed into law the Knapps had readily and happily denied marital bliss to many LGBT couples over the years.
The Hitching Post chapel is located within 1 minutes walking distance from the city hall so many happy couples often take a short walk down the street to say their solemn vows. This happened once again after the law had been passed. A homosexual couple made their way to the chapel and were denied. Knowing that this was in violation of the law the couple contacted authorities, who responded appropriately.
The Knapps are being fined $1,000 per day for every day they do not conduct the wedding and face up to 180 days in prison. The Knapps have decided, rather than obey the law, they will fight it. But there is a problem with that strategy…
The problem lies in the fact that their wedding chapel the “Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel” is not a Christian chapel or religious organization of any kind. It is a for profit business. That is even acknowledged in the federal lawsuit which can be read here. The Hitching Post Chapel is an LLC. That is a Limited Liability Company for any unfamiliar with corporate law. An LLC is a flow-through entity that doesn’t get taxed any differently than an individual. The money from an LLC flows directly to whoever owns it and the taxes are merely taken out at the regular income tax rate of the individual(s).
It appears that the Knapps are completely unaware that incorporating actually takes away any religious privilege they may have as to how they may choose their “customers.” Churches can turn away members of the LGBTQ community because, bigoted as it may be, that is a right guaranteed them under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. Corporations however are not guaranteed such protections because – and this is something Mitt Romney and the SCOTUS should learn – corporations are not people. That and the fact that the law specifically says no “for-profit” company can discriminate against their customers.
The Knapps only incorporated on September 12 of this year in the hopes of further protecting themselves with the corporate veil. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A federal judge will decide on this later in the year or sometime next year. That looks like it’s going to be one hefty fine. I hope Idaho provides geriatric support in their prison system. It looks like the Knapps are going to need it.