The owner of Annapolis' iconic old-fashioned trolleys that are often synonymous with the city's wedding scene, said he is abandoning the wedding industry, rather than be forced to serve same-sex couples when Marylard's marriage equality law takes effect next month.
Matt Grubbs, owner of Discover Annapolis Tours, said he refuses to compromise his Christian convictions, and has urged prospective clients to lobby state lawmakers for a religious exemption for wedding vendors, reported The Baltimore Sun.
Grubbs said he has no choice but to walk away from $50,000 in annual revenue, because state law prohibits him from discriminating against gays.
"If they're providing services to the public, they can't discriminate who they provide their services to," said Glendora Hughes, general counsel for the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights; the commission enforces the public accommodation laws that prohibit businesses from discriminating on the basis of race, sexual orientation and other characteristics.
Grubbs has refused interviews, but confirmed that he sent an email last month to Chris Belkot, a prospective client, in which he said "we used to do weddings until recently. But we're a Christian-owned business, and we are not able to lend support to gay marriages. And as a public accommodation, we cannot discriminate between gay or straight couples, so we had to stop doing all wedding transportation."
"The law exempts my minister from doing same-sex weddings, and the Knights of Columbus don't have to rent out their hall for a gay wedding reception, but somehow my religious convictions don't count for anything," Grubbs wrote, urging Belkot to lobby lawmakers to "amend the new marriage law to allow an exemption for religious conviction for the layperson in the pew."
Belkot, surprised by Grubbs' email, fired off a response that read, in part, "It is your right to run your business any way you see fit, but let's be honest here, you drive a trolley up and down a street. Not exactly God's work."
On November 6, voters in Maryland approved the Civil Marriage Protection Act, giving same-sex couples the right to marry. The law takes effect Jan. 1.
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