Ruling ties up Hitching Post

Same-sex marriage decision could prompt owners to sell business

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COEUR d'ALENE - Don and Lynn Knapp have owned the Hitching Post for more than 25 years and call it a very special place.

However, an upcoming decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco regarding the constitutionality of Idaho's ban of same-sex marriage has the couple at a crossroad.

"We are thinking about selling but haven't really made a firm decision one way or another," Don told The Press Tuesday. "I truly believe that God's position is that marriage is between a man and a woman and that to do ceremonies for people of the same sex would be violating God's law. As a minister, I could never do that."

Last November, eight years after Idaho voters approved House Joint Resolution 2 - which amended the state's constitution to state that "a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized" - four same-sex couples filed a lawsuit challenging its constitutional validity.

In May, U.S. District Magistrate Candy Dale reviewed the lawsuit and struck down the same-sex marriage ban, calling it unconstitutional.

In her opinion, Dale wrote that the state "offered no evidence that same-sex marriage would adversely affect opposite-sex marriage or the well-being of children."

The state appealed the ruling from the lower court to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is slated to go before a three-judge panel on Sept. 8.

Earlier this month, Gov. Butch Otter and State Attorney General Lawrence Wasden filed reply briefs to the court, highlighting their reasons for opposing the ruling.

In his brief, Wasden argues that since Idaho's "territorial days" in 1864, marriage laws have "always defined a marriage as a union between one man and one woman."

Monte Neil Stewart, representing Otter, wrote in his reply brief that Idaho's definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman is in the best interest of society "because of the nature of the well-documented ills of fatherlessness and motherlessness."

"Choosing the man-woman marriage institution is thus not an act of animus (however defined) but rather the fulfillment of a duty to assure, to the fullest extent practically possible, that children generally are spared those ills," the reply brief states.

Knapp said he and his wife would like to continue operating the Hitching Post, which has been a part of Coeur d'Alene for 95 years, as they have in the past. But the upcoming ruling, and the city of Coeur d'Alene's anti-discrimination ordinance adopted last year could make that impossible given his spiritual beliefs.

"I have spoken to a city attorney and he said that if the ruling comes down unfavorably toward my way of thinking that I would be required to do those weddings or be fined and imprisoned for up to 180 days in jail," Knapp said.

The Knapps are exploring all possible options prior to the appellate decision in order to not have to sell the Hitching Post. If they do sell the business, Knapp said it would be heartbreaking.

"I enjoy what I do and I think if you talk to a lot of people whose weddings I have officiated over the years, they would tell you they like what we do at the Hitching Post," Knapp said. "We try to encourage them in a way that will help them have a successful marriage and give them a little bit of instruction and guidance."

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