Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Anti-gay discrimination in NJ, Arkansas

Hunter of Justice reports:

The New Jersey Civil Rights Division has issued a Final Report finding that the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association discriminated against Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster by refusing to rent them a boardwalk pavilion for a civil union ceremony. OGCMA describes itself as "a ministry organization, rooted in Methodist heritage." ...

The agency found that the church was operating the pavilion as a public accommodation, not as a religious facility, evidenced by the fact that it rented it to any and all couples who wanted it for a wedding, regardless of religious affiliation, and had represented to the state that the pavilion was "open to the public" in order to obtain an exemption from property tax. (The group has now stopped renting the pavilion.) I am calling this an early stage in the case, despite the fact that it is the final agency action, because t...[T]he defendant's lawyer, the Alliance Defense Fund, is announcing that it will seek reversal of the decision in court.

Meanwhile, the ACLU has filed a challenge to the statute adopted by Arkansas voters on election day that bars adoption and foster care placement with any unmarried couples. The complaint alleges equal protection and due process violations on both federal and state constitutional grounds; the case was filed in state court....

Doubtless there will be more to come on both these cases in future months.

The NJ case underscores that just being a religious group is not enough to secure exemptions from the law, if you are actually operating as a public accommodation rather than a private faith-based association. The Arkansas case will be an interesting one to watch.

That blog also reports that the Alliance Defense Fund is threatening to sue to block a new legal ethics rule in Arizona that would require lawyers to pledge not to discriminate against clients on the basis of sexual orientation.

1 comment:

Aviva said...

It seems extra foolish for lawyers to discriminate against clients on the basis of sexual orientation; if anyone would know the risks inherent in doing such a thing, it would be them.
Of course, if something being foolish ever stopped anyone from doing it, the world would be a far less complicated place.