Most of Hitching Post case dismissed

Claim for economic injuries on Oct. 15, 2014, still active

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SHAWN GUST/Press file

The majority of the case brought against the city of Coeur d’Alene by the Hitching Post wedding chapel was dismissed Friday.

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush granted the city’s lawyers’ motion to dismiss the Hitching Post’s claim for economic injuries for six days in October 2014 and to bring a “pre-enforcement challenge to Ordinance.”

Bush denied the motion to dismiss the Hitching Post’s standing to “bring a claim for economic injuries” for Oct. 15, 2014.

This means the Hitching Post cannot proceed with the lawsuit for getting money for the specified days, nor can it sue the city for anticipated harm. If they want to, the Knapps, owners of The Hitching Post, can continue the lawsuit only for the economic damages the wedding chapel incurred on Oct. 15, 2014.

The Knapps filed the lawsuit in October 2014, claiming the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance infringed on their right to freedom of religion by forcing them to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Knapps alleged the city repeatedly informed them the ordinance applies to the Hitching Post and they had consistently declined to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. The Knapps said they sued the city because the ordinance was a violation of their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and free excercise of religion, a violation of the Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Protected Act (FERPA) and a violation of their 14th Amendment right to due process.

This ruling does not mean the Hitching Post won. If the Knapps believe Judge Bush ruled wrongly, they can try to have the decision overruled.

Judge Bush wrote in his memorandum and decision order that the fact “… that the Knapps have standing to bring a claim for compensatory damages associated with the Hitching Post’s closing on Oct. 15, 2014, does not mean that they prevail as a matter of law on such a claim; rather, they are simply permitted to move forward in asserting such a claim through this legal action.”

“It means the case is still alive,” said Mike Gridley, Coeur d’Alene city attorney. “And as of now, we have not heard anything from the Knapps’ attorneys about what they want to do from here on.”

When asked how this ruling affects the case, Jeremy Tedesco — senior council for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian rights legal advocacy organization representing the Knapps in this case — said “the government exists to protect and respect our freedoms, not attack them. The Knapps, as ordained ministers, should not be forced to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines. We are gratified that our lawsuit to defend this couple’s First Amendment freedoms is moving forward.”

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