Religious Wedding Vendor Seeks Exemption for Gay Marriages

Discover Annapolis Tours says they have shut down their wedding services—which earn the company $50,000 a year—indefinitely.

An Annapolis wedding vendor plans to ask Maryland's General Assembly to give his company and others like him the right to refuse services to gay couples on religious grounds.

In November, Marylanders voted to uphold a law, passed by the General Assembly that legalized same-sex marriages starting Jan. 1.

"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," Discover Annapolis Tours owner Matt Grubbs wrote in an email.

The email was provided to Patch by Chris Belkot on Nov. 29. He received it from Grubbs after Belkot inquired about using the company's wedding services this spring. 

Grubbs confirmed the email, and said his attorney advised him to shut down the wedding part of his business immediately because he could be sued for refusing services to same-sex couples.

"We’re a Christian-owned company, and we just can't support gay marriages," Grubbs said. "We're not trying to make a statement. We're not trying to make a point. We're just trying to be faithful Christians."

The decision will cost him approximately $50,000 a year in revenue. 

"We would love to keep it open because a lot of people get engaged over Thanksgiving and Christmas and then call us," Grubbs said. "We hope to get back into it if we can get a religious exemption."

Grubbs' business, which provided trolley cars to transport wedding parties and guests from churches to receptions, still provides tours and other site seeing services.

An amendment granting a broader religious exemption wouldn't need to go to referendum or jump through any other special hoops just because same-sex marriage did, said Alan Brody, a spokesman for Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler.

But that doesn't mean it's likely to come to fruition in the 2013 legislative session.

So, for now, Discover Annapolis Tours is out of the wedding business.

Teammm December 10, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Actually Mike, with all due respect, you don't seem to know the law and its purpose with respect to public policy. I happen to believe that the law is what it SHOULD be because all people should be entitled to full and equal enjoyment of any place of public accommodation. But go ahead, allow them to discriminate against gay people. Have them post a sign that says the business doesn't serve LGBT people due to its fundamental religious beliefs. Their business will surely suffer financially ...and let them be happy to suffer for their faith. In their mind, that would make them feel closer to God. Without question the business will be losing many many heterosexual couples' business as well. They will not be able to stay in business either way. Suppose that would happen, if you think logically, and all businesses were allowed to discriminate against any group they have a personal religious conviction against, virtually nobody will have equal access to public accommodations and it will be a hassle to do everything. It will be a mess. One group will retaliate against the other with their deeply held religious convictions. The best solution to that problem would be to favor religious freedom in a place of worship or primarily religious organization, and favor civil rights in the public square. And that's exactly what the law is. They can feel free to close their business...no one has forced them to do anything.
Mike December 10, 2012 at 07:09 AM
@ Teammm: Regarding: "Actually Mike, with all due respect, you don't seem to know the law and its purpose with respect to public policy. I happen to believe that the law is what it SHOULD be because all people should be entitled to full and equal enjoyment of any place of public accommodation." Here's the problem: Your reasoning (and the law's if one accepts that the law has the best of intentions rather than just selling control, but let's go with the assumption of good intentions) is circular reasoning because you are DEFINING someone's private property as a "public accomodation." And you say the law should mandate access to all because It is a "public accomodation." This is circular reasoning. The law says the man's chartered bus is a public accomodation. Public accomodations should have legally-mandated equal access. Therefore, the man's bus should have legally-mandated equal access. The problem with the logic is that it is circular. It relies on its conclusion as a premise to get to that conclusion. The law SHOULD be X because IT IS X. That is utter nonsense that a first-semester logic student could skewer for the joke it is. The man's bus is only a public accomodation if it is open to the public. He is not opening it to the public. He is opening it only to private charters. As his property, that is is natural right, regardless of the law. (Just as a slave's natural right is to be free, regardless of the law.) continued...
Mike December 10, 2012 at 07:20 AM
The man OWNS the buses and the bus company. He only willingly CHOOSES to do business with straight couples, not gays. (Which I find contemptible, btw, and I won't do business with him.) He is not opening up his buses to all of the public, just certain people. You and the law and its guns step in and say he cannot. He will be fined, and sued, and have his property taken away if he continues. But if Grubbs OWNS the buses and the company, and if Grubbs doesn't choose to do businesses with all of the public, then it ISN'T "public accomodation" at all. Put another way, you are OUTLAWING PRIVATE PROPERTY and OUTLAWING ANY COMMERCE THAT ISN'T A "PUBLIC ACCOMODATION." According to your approach, he CANNOT engage in any private commerce. At the moment he wants to do any business with any select people, YOU get to jump in with government guns and seize control, saying everyone gets to use his property. ALL "private" property is thus public property in your eyes. There IS NO SUCH THING as PRIVATE business. continued... That's the DEATH of property rights, an utter contempt for liberty, and LITERALLY, the definition of FASCISM (where property is SAID TO BE privately owned, but is ACTUALLY completely at the mercy and whim of government).
Mike December 10, 2012 at 07:31 AM
And Teamm, where you said "But go ahead, allow them to discriminate against gay people. Have them post a sign that says the business doesn't serve LGBT people due to its fundamental religious beliefs. Their business will surely suffer financially ...and let them be happy to suffer for their faith. In their mind, that would make them feel closer to God. Without question the business will be losing many many heterosexual couples' business as well. They will not be able to stay in business either way." You say that in a free market, the bigot will go out of business, so the law might as well REQUIRE him to serve all. Let's call your bluff. If he's doomed in a free market by serving only straight couples, you don't need the law anyway. Let his business die. But you won't. Because the truth is, it MIGHT die and it MIGHT not. And you want to IMPOSE YOUR morality by government guns. This breeds hatred. This gives even bigots a GOOD reason to hate tyrants like you. And all becomes a fight for 51% of the vote. If some people think gays are evil because of religion, and some think religious people are evil, and everyone thinks government should RAM HIS PARTICULAR MORALITY down the throats of all, THAT's when you have a real "mess." Then people rightly HATE each other AND fear each other. The universal common ground is "live and let live." I leave you alone, you leave me alone, and we only use our pooled force, government guns, if someone breaks THAT peace.
Mike December 10, 2012 at 07:40 AM
But sadly, we live in a world full of zealots who don't understand (or don't care) that you can't make everyone like each other and share the same specific morality. There will always be people who don't like each other, and don't share the same beliefs. If those people can rise above the childishness, they can find the universal common ground of liberty: I will leave you and your property and your actions alone. And I will expect you to do the same with me, and everyone else. And we will live in peace, interacting only when we BOTH agree. (You have milk, I have grapes, let's trade.) Peace, liberty, property rights. And we only use the guns of government when people trample the rule of "live and let live." Instead, tyrants like you, even with the best of intentions sometimes, insist on IMPOSING your will on everyone else. And the peaceful among us are stuck in the sewer of hate and violence you create.
Slick December 11, 2012 at 06:27 AM
I say what's the harm ? Give the company what it wishes - exemptions on religious grounds are granted under the law for religious affiliates. Best case: They register with a religiously affiliated organization or become sponsored by one to should satisfy the intent of the law. Worst case: They are operating a private CHARTER business and can not be forced to accept same sex specific business if they do not accept straight business too per = protection. They live with it and "lose" $50K in business. Maybe someone comes in and fills the "market" as it were. Annapolis is relatively conservative, so my assumption is that there will be near-term competition for that 2-3% of the market which will drop off significantly after the initial rush of long-time partners fulfill their dream. I admire anyone on either side that stands for their convictions. .
Gary December 23, 2012 at 01:12 AM
ME TOO!!!!!!!
Gary December 23, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Mike Rocks!!!
Joseph G December 29, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Geez, I'm a Libertarian, but Mike is making all of look insane.
Mike December 29, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Funny, Joe, and uselessly vague. It is very clear you are not a libertarian. If you honestly think you are, you don't know what it means. If you are lying, then...
John Eight Thirty-Two December 31, 2012 at 04:40 AM
It's hard to say which is dumber: thinking that Jesus requires his followers to be bigots; thinking the General Assembly might enshrine his bigotry in (an unconstitutional) law; or not knowing the difference between a trolley and a bus.
Dadof2 December 31, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Mike... I tried and tried to find a way to find common ground with your argument. But, all I can say about you is "wow!" That is not a compliment, btw.
Mike December 31, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Not everyone can understand freedom. Thanks for trying.
Dadof2 December 31, 2012 at 09:57 PM
I'm sending the vendor my personal thoughts about their decision by emailing them per their website. For those interested in doing the same, I'll save you the trouble of looking them up: here's their email (info@discover-annapolis.com), here's their website (http://www.discover-annapolis.com), and their phone number is 410-626-6000. This shouldn't cause concern for anyone because everyone would have been encouraged to let your local representative know your thoughts and feelings about pending legislation; why not let your voice be shared directly with the vendor...
Dadof2 December 31, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Someone help me out here... Grubbs says that the reason Discover Annapolis is trying to discriminate against same-sex marriage is becuse they are "just trying to be faithful Christians." If that's the case, why does their website specifically offer services for transporting guests to/from bar mitzvah's?
Mike December 31, 2012 at 10:17 PM
BTW Dad, I don't want to assume, but it sounds to me like you think: a. it is perfectly fine for gays to marry, and b. it is absolutely wrong for the law to provide state benefits and priveleges for people based on their sexual orientation (gay or straight or otherwise), and c.it is morally wrong to refuse to do business with gays based on their being gay. 1. Is this what you believe? 2. If so, then there's a huge piece of common ground with my argument. Perhaps that will aid in your understanding, Mike
John December 31, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Because their real purpose is to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples but they know they will lose business when people discover that fact. By saying they want to be faithful Christians they can delay the lose of business by open minded people who believe that everyone should be treated equally under the law. It's a convenient excuse for now. I'm sure they will come up with another once this one is busted for what it really is.
Mike December 31, 2012 at 10:24 PM
I don't claim to know his beliefs, but it SOUNDS like Grubbs's notion of Christianity is that homosexuality is a sin before God, and that Judaism is not.
Terry Brukiewa January 01, 2013 at 09:33 PM
I've been following the comments by Mike and Teamm. Here's the number one question. Is Discover Annapolis Tours incorporated? If so under federal and state laws it is a seperate identity from the own. The corporation would have it's own federal and state tax ID numbers and the corporation would pay federal and state taxes. As a corporation it would have no religious affliation,, unless it was incorporated as a tax exempt religious organization (which I doubt) The buses would belong the corporation and not the individual (owner) that started the business. The owner would merely be a Stockholder/Officer and perhaps a paid employee. If it is a sole ownership/partnership taxed under the owners personal social security number we might has a slight case .
Mike January 01, 2013 at 09:49 PM
Terry B, I suspect you are correct about the law. With all the stuff spread through the spread, it would be easy to miss my statement earlier that I am not arguing the existing law--my belief is that the law is against Grubbs. I am arguing strictly for what the law SHOULD BE, not about what it is. Regards, Mike
chipdex January 02, 2013 at 03:25 PM
Hi Mike. I am late to this conversation and I really appreciate your passion for liberty and the clear way you articulate this passion. I think your ideas make a lot of sense. I believe where this logic breaks down is, in the real world there are power monopolies. For example, in America for a long time white males held way more power than anyone else. And so when it was legal to discriminate against blacks, and many people were doing so, this created no small hardship for the minority being discriminated against. Perhaps this is also what it is like to be a christian in an islamic country today. So yes I agree with you that we need to be careful about what we get "govt guns" involved in. (I also agree with your logic there, guns do indeed back everything up.) But I think protecting minorities from discrimination is possibly worth using that power. Now perhaps there are better ways to do it, such as providing public services that can't be used with any discrimination, but then think of all the govt services that will have to be provided in order to level the playing field. What if all the private shuttle services in Annapolis were run by folks who opposed gay marriage, and none of them would provide services to gays. Does the govt then have to start providing its own shuttle services? So I get what you are saying, and perhaps maybe we've gone too far in our effort to protect minorities, but nonetheless I do think there is some validity behind the anti-discrimination laws.
Mike January 02, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Chipdex, Thanks for the thoughtful note. I think one thing that gets lost in the notion of government "protecting" groups or industries or whatever is the endless, immoral battle to steal from one other through political favor. Much like the world of liquor licenses, people oppose the barrier to entry into business. Then most of those who do get into the club then try to step up the licensing to keep the competition out. If you think this doesn't apply to something like racial or sex or sexual-orientation, consider something like college admissions. These schools are chock full of public money, taken by force, and then access is granted based on race or sex or sexual-orientation? It's as wrong now as it was in Montgomery AL. There will NEVER be a "fair" system of handing out the favors and preferences. The only fair system is to end the favors and preferences, letting people return to private business. If they don't take from the public trough, then there should be no restriction so long as they don't demonstrably kill, injure, threaten, steal, or defraud others. Further, people also overlook how bigots actually shoot themselves in the foot, economically. Turn away good business because people are gay? It's both a direct loss of business (the gays) and an indirect one (principled people like me). People also forget that the Jim Crow laws FORCED segregation. Forced integration is wrong as well--it's not the gov'ts rightful place to decide.
Mike January 02, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Chipdex, The last point I'd make is that our society has almost completely lost the notion of private property. This is a natural, though awful, consequence of the great prosperity the country reached, and of the false prosperity to which we cling (based on massive amounts of borrowed money and the artificial interest rates for borrowing printed money). This is destined to end soon, whether that's this year or in the next 20. But what will be seen then is a MASSIVE cut in living standards, and a return to more people doing WHATEVER they can to earn SOMETHING to live on. When that happens, and the myriad easy jobs working for someone else are gone, people will naturally start to re-acquire healthier, instinctive notions of private property and pulling-one's own weight. The danger, of course, is the segment who turn to ever greater government-based thievery. A very real fork in the road will appear, between the redistributive police-state and the producers. Very dangerous days...
Mike January 02, 2013 at 04:16 PM
Oops, left one thing out. When living standards drop and people become more desperate, we will see more rooms let out, more people cooking meals for pay in their own kitchens, more people doing ANYTHING of worth that they can sell. When they do, they will be using whatever tools they have at their disposal. Their own, private property. Very quickly, they will demand that ANY business they do will be done AT THEIR SOLE DISCRETION, as should be the case. Further, the natural factors in the market will drive them to serve those who will do business honestly, regardless of sex, skin color, bedroom behavior, whatever. Also lost oin the history (it doesn't fit the popular narrative) is that a lot of ethnic discrimination existed in the labor-union movement. Employers wanted to keep labor costs down, and WANTED to have Irish, Blacks, Chinese, etc in the workforce. The existing workforce used racism to keep the newcomers out. What conquered this was the MARKET. Integration in the workforce was unstoppable. overcoming unionism and the legal barriers the union vote was able to garner through political deals. The lesson being that so long as the winner of such battles is determined by VOTING, it will be crooked, with the law used to gain the upper hand over free people choosing for themselves. The ethical approach is to let free people choose for themselves. The law will ALWAYS be the stuff of crooks gaining political favors, even if they market it otherwise.
Mike January 02, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Last thought: the silver lining in cases like this one is that the laws against racial, sexual, or bedroom-based discrimination are in many ways an academic point in truly private business, because there isn't much a of a problem to be found. The markets and enlightened self-interest take care of it. The big abuses are in the same places they always are: fights over public money (legalized theft). The people who get hold of the votes ALWAYS act to TAKE from those who don't have the votes, period. This is not healthy and is not ethical. So, in government contracts, protectionist laws, shakedowns by the Jacksons and Sharptons of the world, we see the LARGE, ugly, supposedly-unintended consequences of such laws made to "protect.". Small-time private business doesn't see much of it. But where laws create any form of political leverage over large amounts of others' private property, people simply use those laws to STEAL. Often in very creative and subtle ways, but it is still stealing. So, while the Grubbs case alone doen't make me lose much sleep (I disagree with what I consider his bigotry) and thus the law's choice in this case HAPPENS TO coincide with the right ethical choice in my view, this is a bit like a broken clock being right twice a day. In the same way that using government guns to silence the Klan would be a horrible slippery slope and wrongful overreach, even though the Klan's speech is immoral.
Mike January 02, 2013 at 04:53 PM
One other consequence of such "anti-discrimination" laws is far more harmful than most realize: the creation of hatred that wouldn't otherwise exist. When the market is filled with lots of groups lobbying for political favors that allow seizure or control of others' property, thieves are everywhere. It creates a new type of political competition, where financial success is driven by gaining POWER and TAKING from others, rather than by pleasing customers. When this group-based political theft becomes a major factor in the market, otherwise unbiased people suddenly have a RATIONAL, non-racist, non-sexist, non-whatever-ist reason to hate other groups. It's nothing personal, it's just business. Only outrage at theft is inherently personal, and people build up group-based hatred. And who benefits? The people who make their "living" off of the conflict. The people who work in political favors. It's a lot like divorce lawyers. They prosper the most when the spouses can't even speak rationally anymore, and it becomes a war. Our society needs to cast off the divorce lawyers, and celebrate and rebuild ourselves in the mutual love and respect that is LIVE AND LET LIVE. Yes, some bigots will be around. But they'll be around anyway. Laws that choose winners and losers in the market just create opportunity for bigots. When we all leave the law out of it, the bigots have no leverage, and thus little influence.
chipdex January 02, 2013 at 06:20 PM
I understand what you are saying about the potential for abuses and in a large way I side with your ideology, especially where money (taxation) is concerned. But when it comes to the anti-discrimination laws, I just think it makes common sense. I understand that to some extent, like all laws, it is a restriction on freedom backed ultimately by govt guns. But in this case it ensures a more liveable society. For example, it would be stressful to never know until I get there whether a hotel is going to allow "my kind" to stay there, or whether a bar or restaurant will or won't let "my kind" in, or whether or not this or that cab or shuttle service will or won't serve me. Imagine traveling and having that additional stress. Now I realize there could be workarounds, maybe we could require businesses to state up front who they do or don't serve, or create an Angie's list of sorts to disseminate that kind of information, but it just feels too unstable to allow any business owner the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any given moment. So I guess this is why I support laws which force business owners/operators to limit their discrimination to issues germane to the functional operation of that business only, and not to racial or other prejudices.
chipdex January 02, 2013 at 06:20 PM
(continued from previous post...) Now the sexual orientation one is tricky because some people view it as bad moral choice, and in general we allow a certain level of discrimination against folks for moral reasons - think credit reports, drug tests for employment, criminal background checks, etc. So those who feel that homosexuality is a bad moral choice, believe that it fits in the category of "fair discrimination". Those who feel homosexuality is either innate and/or not a bad moral choice, naturally think that to discriminate against those who practice homosexuality is akin to discriminating against color/race/etc. Honestly maybe the best advice for that shuttle service, is to publish publicly their views about homosexuality, and so its likely that they won't get many gay couples as clients. But they've chosen to go out of business instead.
Mike January 02, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Chipdex, FWIW, while I appreciate that you're thinking ahead, as a practical matterI don't think there'd be much problem at all with travel and other logistics. Nearly all rooms are booked in advance. Pleces already have terms and conditions posted online and they have to disclose them there or it'd be a nightmare with people showing up, just as, say, with pet vs. no-pet restrictions. Further, I don't think any but the smallest and/or most short-lived companies would choose to discrimate against any of the usual groups. Nobody with stockholders would even dare as they'd be social outcasts overnight if they did. One question of principle where I'm curious on your stance. There is no harm to anyone by NOT interacting with him. Not interacting in private business is the same as not interacting socially except that an exchange takes place. So, what justifiable legal basis is there to punish someone, ultimately under threat of death, for simply choosing NOT to interact with someone? Not interacting doesn't cause harm or threaten the "victim", it doesn't take from or defraud the "victim." (As Jefferson said, it neither "breaks my arm nor picks my pocket.") So what moral justification can there be for using force of LAW to seize the property, liberty, or life of the bigot who has not done harm to anyone? Doing so undermines the very concept of private property. It commandeers private property for public use, literally for the crime of doing nothing.
chipdex January 04, 2013 at 02:04 PM
I like your way of thinking Mike - and largely I agree with it. I hear what you are saying about things done TO people versus the harm of choosing not to associate. And I agree to a point. However, I think if a large enough majority was behaving in discriminatory ways towards one or more minorities, and if that majority had a lot of power (wealth, control of resources) that could result in real harm to that minority. So while I think maybe its over-reaching in the case of the shuttle service and other small business owners, I do believe that govt guns possibly should get involved if a monopoly of power was systematically oppressing a relatively powerless minority. Now I agree that perhaps even then govt guns aren't fully necessary, I'm not sure on that point. I mean it would be best to try to reason with, and boycott, and try other means, but I think at some point the U.S. has just said "this kind of behavior is ultimately very bad for the country" and thus codified it into law. I realize the net effect is that govt guns are ultimately behind forcing people to do business with each other and I understand why this concerns you, but I'm just not sure its that bad of a reason, given the racial history of our country - slavery, then segregation, etc. I can understand why such laws now may seem unnecessary in this decade because fortunately we're moving past racism in a lot of ways, which is a very good thing!


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