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ACLU: Northern Idaho wedding chapel now a religious corporation, can refuse gay marriages

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BOISE, Idaho — The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho says it will not challenge a northern Idaho wedding chapel's refusal to conduct gay marriages because the chapel falls under a religious exemption.

Interim Executive Director Leo Morales said in a news conference Thursday that the Hitching Post became a religious corporation in Idaho nearly a month ago.

Morales said the ACLU believes that under its new business classification, the chapel does not have to comply with the city of Coeur d'Alene's ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation because the chapel only provides religious services.

Unlike most churches, which are tax-exempt and private organizations, a religious corporation is still considered for-profit.

However, the legal organization will reconsider not challenging the chapel if it begins offering secular services, such as providing flowers, cake or holds nonreligious marriage ceremonies.

"This situation is very nuanced, it's also very new for us and for most of the attorneys involved in the case," he said.

A Christian religious rights legal organization filed a federal lawsuit last week against the city contending the chapel could be compelled to perform gay marriages under the city's anti-discrimination ordinance.

In a letter to Alliance Defending Freedom, Coeur d'Alene attorney Mike Gridley said that wedding chapel owners Don and Lynn Knapp would be exempted from the city ordinance if they were operating as a nonprofit religious organization.

Gay marriage became legal in Idaho on Oct. 15. Six days later, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter filed a petition asking for an 11-judge review of the federal court's decision to overturn Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage.

Otter listed the Hitching Post as a business that would be harmed if the "traditional" definition of marriage was changed in Idaho.

All the latest news surrounding the same sex marriage debate can be found here.

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All the latest news surrounding the same sex marriage debate can be found here.


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