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Editorial: Two more small steps for gay rights

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis

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One step at time, American society moves closer to full acceptance that gay people are just folks, no less beautiful or annoying than the rest of us.

Twice in the last three weeks, efforts to discriminate against same-sex couples have been swatted down by civil law, with a brushing aside of religious objections that were, respectfully, irrelevant to the legal matters at that hand.

In Kentucky on Monday, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis returned to work after grudgingly agreeing to no longer block her deputies from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It took a brief turn in jail for Davis to come to the understanding that, as an elected official, she is not free to pick and choose which laws she will uphold, regardless of her religious convictions. A courthouse is not a church.

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Then on Thursday, the Illinois Human Rights Commission ruled that a Downstate bed-and-breakfast could not refuse to serve same-sex couples, regardless of the business owner’s religious convictions. To do so would be no more legal than a business refusing to serve a couple because of the color of their skin. A bed-and-breakfast is not a church.

In a 25-page ruling, Administrative Law Judge Michael R. Robinson said the bed-and-breakfast was clearly a public place and the owners had no legitimate grounds for refusing to provide services, back in 2011, for a same-sex civil union ceremony.

Small steps matter. They point us in the right direction.

“This ruling should send a clarion signal to all businesses in Illinois that when they are open to the public, they must serve everyone,” Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois told us. “There is no ability to pick and choose customers on the basis of someone being gay or lesbian. We always believed this was the appropriate interpretation of Illinois’ human rights act. It is good to see the Commission agreed.”

Not all disputes over matters of church and state are so easily parsed and settled. And religious freedom is a bedrock of our nation’s founding. But these two cases, for all the fireworks, were easy calls.

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