A well-known Maryland tour company famous for its old-fashioned trolley rides will no longer be offering wedding services come Jan. 2013 because the company's owner opposes same-sex marriage and fears he might face discrimination claims for turning away gay couples.
"We're a Christian-owned company, and we just can't support gay marriages," Matt Grubbs, owner of Discover Annapolis Tours, told Patch.com in early December. Grubbs's company has become a favorite of Maryland-area couples seeking old-fashioned trolley rides for their wedding party
"We're not trying to make a statement. We're not trying to make a point. We're just trying to be faithful Christians," Grubbs added, telling Patch.com that his attorney advised him to shut down wedding services to avoid discrimination lawsuits.
Grubbs made his decision to end the wedding service portion of his tours earlier this year, when he emailed heterosexual groom Chris Belkot in late November, telling him that the tours no longer accommodated weddings.
"We used to do weddings until recently. But we're a Christian-owned business, and we are not able to lend support to gay marriages. And as a public accommodation, we cannot discriminate between gay or straight couples, so we had to stop doing all wedding transportation," Grubbs reportedly said in the email, according to The Huffington Post.
Grubbs reportedly went on in the email to say that he planned to ask the Maryland General Assembly to grant his business and others like it a religious exemption so they do not feel forced to perform same-sex weddings.
"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," Grubbs said in the November email to Belkot.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Grubbs's decision means walking away from $50,000 in revenue in the upcoming new year, which is when he will stop wedding services because that is when the new same-sex marriage legalization comes into effect in the state.
Glendora Hughes, general counsel for the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, told The Baltimore Sun if businesses like Discover Annapolis Tours are "providing services to the public, they can't discriminate who they provide their services to."
Frank Schubert, the National Political Director for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), told the Baltimore Sun that when it comes to the current issue regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage in some states, "the law doesn't protect people of faith. It simply doesn't."
A similar issue occurred in Vermont in 2011, when Jim and Mary O'Reilly, Catholic owners of the Wildflower Inn, were sued by a same-sex couple for refusing to allow them to wed at their establishment.
The two parties ultimately reached a settlement, and the O'Reillys were ordered to pay $30,000 and can no longer hold weddings at their inn.
On Nov. 6, 2012, same-sex marriage was legalized in Maine, Maryland and Washington, joining the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.