Jim and Mary O'Reilly are perfect examples of the real agenda of those advocating legal protections for sexual behavior. The O'Reillys' own a bed and breakfast in Vermont. That state not only legalized same-sex unions, but has a broad "non-discrimination" law that includes sexual orientation. Consequently, the O'Reillys' were forced by the government to open their facility to same-sex couples despite their own religious convictions. They did, however, with permission from the state's "Human Rights Commission," communicate very clearly with guests their deeply held religious conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman. They never rejected a same-sex couple.
Yet the ACLU, one of the most vocal advocates of so-called "non-discrimination" policies, as well as free speech, partnered with Vermont's Human Rights Commission to sue the O'Reillys' for discrimination. They directly attacked the O'Reillys' approved practice of simply disclosing their religious beliefs about marriage to potential customers. According to Austin Nimocks, Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom:
Although the Commission agreed that the O'Reillys' acted in good-faith reliance on its 2005 ruling, the government and the ACLU demanded that the O'Reillys' pay $10,000 to the Commission as a civil penalty and $20,000 to a charitable trust set up by the ACLU's clients. Forced with the prospect of potentially losing their business, the O'Reillys' relented and agreed to these terms in August 2012.
This case was not about access to services-the ACLU's clients were easily able to find a venue for their reception, and the Wildflower's business practice did not deny services to anyone, but merely disclosed the O'Reillys' relevant religious convictions. What the government and the ACLU really objected to was the O'Reillys' mere mention of their views about marriage-views that conflict with the prevailing political orthodoxy in Vermont. For this, the government and ACLU insisted that the O'Reillys' be punished. (Emphasis added.)
"Punished"? For expressing their religious conviction? Not only has religious expression taken a hit, so has freedom of speech. In the past, the ACLU has defended the rights of NAZI and KKK groups to parade through cities, but God forbid (oops! Can't use that word) a family express and practice its religious beliefs on its own property.
This stifling of religious and expression freedoms is the true agenda of Equality Virginia, the ACLU and other advocates for legislation that will be introduced in the 2014 Virginia General Assembly that would add sexual orientation to Virginia's employment non-discrimination law. While our law currently applies only to state government, don't mistake that for the final goal of these groups. They've introduced legislation that would add "sexual orientation" to the state's more broadly interpreted "Human Rights Act." As the executive director of the ACLU said just a couple of years ago during testimony on this proposal, "This is a baby step."
A baby step alright. A baby step toward punishment simply for disclosing your religious conviction about human sexuality.
Some in the Republican Party want to capitulate on this issue, saying that it's a battle not worth fighting, a losing issue — a "divisive social issue" that gets in the way of winning elections. They are exceedingly naive or sadly ignorant of the logical conclusion of elevating sexual activity to protected status in our law. We, however, know exactly what the goals are and therefore will stand our ground and fight for religious liberty and expression.