OH county and wedding officiant agree she will not be forced to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples

by Laura Mize · Oct 27th, 2020 4:09 pm
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Last Updated Oct 28th, 2020 at 7:08 pm

A Christian wedding officiant in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, has reached an agreement with the county that stipulates she will not be forced to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples.

The agreement comes after Kristi Stokes, who owns Covenant Weddings, sued the county over a law prohibiting discrimination for sexual orientation or gender identity in places "of public accommodation." The law is also known as the "Accommodations Clause."

The agreement between the two parties, which was filed for judicial approval on Friday, holds that Covenant Weddings is not 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.

The document also says the 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."

In a July statement, Stokes said she "can't simply put my religious identity into separate personal and professional boxes." She also noted other types of ceremonies, aside from same-sex weddings, that she would not choose to perform.

"If you're looking for someone to officiate your wedding and you're hoping to incorporate a cannabis theme or write prayers to celebrate an open marriage, I'm not your girl," Stokes said.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, the legal organization that represents Stokes, praised the county for agreeing to protect the officiant's religious liberty.

"We commend Cuyahoga County for understanding and respecting this essential American freedom and acting quickly to ensure that Kristi and countless others need not fear punishment for merely living and speaking consistent with their conscience," ADF attorney Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse said in a statement.


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