When a politician tells you that these bills won’t harm religious liberty because of First Amendment protections, they’re wrong.


In practice, laws like HB 1410 and SB 613 have been used to limit freedoms of speech, conscience, and religion. The popular examples of so-called “discrimination” actually involve conscientious objectors to the redefinition of marriage who are obligated to stand by their most deeply held convictions. Rather than punishing these individuals, business owners, and ministries, we should protect space for all Pennsylvanians to be true to themselves.

Facts & Sources:

A wedding vendor who chooses not to service a same-sex wedding is not discriminating against a person’s being (i.e. not because of who they are). Instead, the vendor believes that cooperation in a particular spiritually meaningful event encroaches on his or her conscience.

  • COLORADO: Jack Phillips, a cake artist and owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, declined to design a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. He offered to make the couple any other type of baked good or sell them a pre-made cake, but, because of his faith, he could not design a cake promoting a same-sex wedding ceremony. A complaint was filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for sexual orientation discrimination. An administrative law judge ruled against Jack Phillips in December 2013, saying that designing and creating cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies are not speech protected by the First Amendment. The commission also ordered Jack and his staff to design cakes for same-sex wedding celebrations, go through a “re-education” program, implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years to show that Jack has agreed to every request by customers to promote any event and message that may conflict with Jack’s religious beliefs. On December 5, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on his case. A ruling is expected in June 2018. View source. View story of Masterpiece Cakeshop
  • WASHINGTON STATE: Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts, was sued in April 2013 by Washington State Attorney General and the American Civil Liberties Union for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. The gentleman in question had been a longtime client of Ms. Stutzman whom she knew was gay and whom she served for 9 years. She only declined one event, a same-sex wedding, not because he was gay, but simply because of the event and the message conveyed by her participation. The court not only fined her business, but found her personally liable for damages, which could wipe out her business and personal savings. Barronelle is now requesting the United States Supreme Court to take on her case. View source
  • OREGON: Sweet Cakes by Melissa, an Oregon bakery owned by Melissa & Aaron Klein, closed its storefront in August, 2013, after months of litigation and threats to their family. The Kleins chose not to participate in a lesbian couple’s wedding by providing a cake. An Oregon court charged the Kleins $135,000 in damages. An appeal has been filed. Source: Court ruling, lawyers response
  • NEW MEXICO: Elaine Huguenin of Elane Photography was forced to pay nearly $7,000 in legal fees after the New Mexico Supreme Court held that her refusal to use her artistic expression in the service of a same-sex wedding violated New Mexico’s human rights law. A judge wrote in a concurring opinion that violating one’s conscience is sometimes “the price of citizenship.” Huguenin’s application to the United States Supreme Court was denied.  Court ruling  Lawyers’ response
  • NEW YORK: The Gifford family owns and lives on a small farm in upstate New York that is open for seasonal activities such as berry picking, but also has event facilities. The Giffords, who are Catholic, could not in conscience host a same-sex wedding at their home. New York charged the Giffords $13,000 in fines and penalties, forcing the family both to stop hosting wedding ceremonies and to lay off their full-time event planner. View source

There is a fundamental distinction between discrimination against a person’s being on one hand, and declining to provide services for a particular event or refusing to materially support a message on the other. Unfortunately, the states that have enacted legislation similar to HB1410 / SB613 have destroyed this distinction. This substantially broadens the definition of discrimination in a manner that forces citizens into cooperation with an event or message that violates their consciences.

  • CATHOLIC CHARITIES: In Illinois, Boston, DC and San Francisco were forced out of the adoption and foster care ministry because they adhered to church teaching that children should only be placed with married couples of one man and one woman. Catholic charitable ministries would no longer be able to make contributions to the common good of Pennsylvania without violating their religious beliefs. View source
  • LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY: Blaine Adamson of Hands on Originals, a printer, refused to print shirts for the Lexington (Gay) Pride Festival because the agenda of the event violated his beliefs. Mr. Adamson arranged with another local company to produce the shirts at the same price he and the parade organizers had previously agreed to. A member of the Lexington Human Rights Commission found against him and demanded that his employees undergo “diversity training,” but a state court overturned this ruling. This case is still ongoing. View source

Pennsylvania is already a tolerant community, founded by William Penn as a sanctuary for religious liberty.

  • Unlike the historical systematic deprivation of jobs, services, and housing to African-Americans in an attempt by whites to maintain white supremacy which was appropriately addressed by our non-discrimination laws, people who identify with the LGBT community have never been, and certainly are not now, in an analogous situation. On the contrary, it is extremely hard to come by examples of discrimination precisely because we are a tolerant society.
  • Most businesses are focused on ensuring they can pay the bills and keep the lights on, and look to hire the best employee or serve any customer they can. As the advocates of HB1410 / SB613 readily admit, many businesses, including every Fortune 500 company Pennsylvania companies already voluntarily have policies prohibiting adverse employment action on the basis of sexual orientation. We should permit businesses to put into place a diversity of employment practices that represent a diversity of values, while maintaining basic fairness and order. Free people of goodwill are able to navigate this diversity on their own without government enforcing a particular orthodoxy on all its citizens and their businesses and ministries. Government intervention is not only unnecessary; it harms the ability of people to navigate diversity in freedom and peace.

Take action:

Use PA Family Council’s Citizen Action Center to tell your State Senator & State Representative to oppose Senate Bill 613 & House Bill 1410: tinyurl.com/DontHarmPA