Court Rules Christian Ohio Wedding Officiant Will Not be Forced to Perform Same-sex Marriage Ceremonies

Kristi Stokes (center), owner of Covenant Weddings in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, interacts with a bride and groom at a wedding photo shoot. | Courtesy of ADF

An evangelical Christian officiant in Ohio will not be forced to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies, per an agreement with county officials approved by a district court.

Kristi Stokes, owner of Covenant Weddings, sued Cuyahoga County earlier this year over a law that barred places of public accommodation from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a proposed judgment entry filed last Friday, both parties agreed that the law would not apply to Stokes and her company, as they would not be identified as a place of public accommodation.

“Even if Plaintiffs’ services could be considered a place of public accommodation, the Accommodations Clause does not mandate or force Kristi Stokes, or any other minister, to officiate or solemnize weddings against their sincerely held religious beliefs,” noted the agreement.

“Even if Plaintiffs’ services could be considered a place of public accommodation, the ‘Accommodations Clause’ does not mandate or force Kristi Stokes or Covenant Weddings LLC to author specific prayers, homilies, vows, or other writings that are inconsistent with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse of Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Stokes, released a statement last Friday celebrating the agreement between the two parties.

“Cuyahoga County’s law made Kristi face an impossible choice: disobey the law, defy her own faith, or ditch her business. She no longer faces that choice,” stated Widmalm-Delphonse.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski