More than 330 cities, counties and towns have passed ordinances that add sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) to their nondiscrimination laws. Dozens of states have also passed similar laws. 

People across the political spectrum agree that adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the law imperils First Amendment freedoms. These laws require some citizens to act contrary to their religious beliefs or convictions regarding marriage or human sexuality.

If those citizens choose to act consistently with their conscience, the government subjects them to fines, penalties, and, in some jurisdictions, jail time.

12 People Hurt by Nondiscrimination Laws

1. Jack Phillips

Jack has made his living as a cake baker in Colorado. In 2012, he politely declined to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding due to his religious convictions about marriage.

A Colorado appeals court ruled against Mr. Phillips and ordered him and his staff to bake cakes celebrating same-sex marriages. The Colorado supreme court declined to hear the appeal.

Mr. Phillips has opted instead to cease making wedding cakes at all. Learn more about Jack Phillips here.

2. The Houston 5

Houston city attorneys subpoenaed information, including sermons, emails, and text messages, from five local pastors, after they spoke out against a SOGI nondiscrimination law that had recently been passed.

The law was later defeated in a public vote, and the city of Houston dropped their unlawful subpoena. 

3. Aaron and Melissa Klein

Aaron and Melissa Klein made their living baking cakes in Oregon. In 2013 they declined to bake a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding.

In punishment, the state of Oregon fined the Klein’s $135,000 and issued a gag order so they cannot speak publicly about their case. Their business, “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” has since closed.

The ruling is being appealed to the Oregon court of appeals.

4. Kevin and Crystal O’Connor

Kevin and Crystal O’Connor are father and daughter, as well as co-owners of an Indiana pizza parlor. They were put under immense pressure and forced to close their doors for a period after Crystal responded to a hypothetical question (would you cater a gay wedding?) in the negative.

The O’Connor’s reopened Memories pizza without much fanfare, but the meme has lived on.

5. Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin

Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin are the owners of Elaine Photography in New Mexico. They declined to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony in 2006.

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission ruled against the Huguenins and the ruling was upheld by the New Mexico Supreme Court. They were ordered to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees. One of the justices wrote that the Huguenins “now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” adding “it is the price of citizenship” (Alliance Defending Freedom).

6. Barronelle Stutzman

Baronelle Stutzman, a WA florist could lose everything.

Baronelle Stutzman will appeal her case to the United States Supreme Court.

Barronelle Stutzman is the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Washington State. In 2012 she declined to use her artistic expression to create customized floral arrangements for a same-sex marriage ceremony of one of her long-time customers.

Baronelle is being sued by the Washington Attorney General, the ACLU, and Rob Ingersoll. In February of 2017 the Washington Supreme Court Ruled against Baronelle’s First Amendment freedoms. Baronelle will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.

Related: WA Supreme Court Rules Against Floral Artist Baronelle Stutzman

7. Blaine Adamson

Hands On Originals VNR from ADF Media Relations on Vimeo.

Blaine Adamson is the managing owner of Hands on Originals, a t-shirt shop in Lexington, Kentucky. After they declined to produce shirts promoting a gay pride festival,  a legal complaint was filed by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed a legal complaint.

Initially the Lexington Human Rights Commission ruled against Hands On Originals. A Fayette Circuit Judge reversed the commission’s decision. The case is now before a Kentucky Court of Appeals.

8. Carl and Angel Larson

Carl and Angel Larson are the owners of Telescope Media Group, a Minnesota video and film production company. They are challenging a Minnesota state law that would coerce speech. Effectively, it demands that business owners like the Larson’s create products that celebrate gay marriage, if they make them to celebrate traditional marriage.

Penalties of violating the law include up to a $25,000 fine up to 90 days in jail.

9. Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski

Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski are the owners of Brush and Nib art studio in Phoenix, Arizona. They are challenging a Phoenix law which requires them to create artwork for same sex weddings and ceremonies.

Penalties for violating this law include up to 6 months in jail and $2500 dollars for each day they fail to comply.

10. San Diego Firefighters

During San Diego’s 2007 “Gay Pride Parade,” four firefighters with the San Diego Fire Department were forced to participate in the parade.

During the parade they were sexually harassed through lewd cat calls and obscene gestures. Also, the event was replete with sexual displays and graphic images.

Less than a week after hearing oral argument, a California appellate court upheld a jury verdict which found that four San Diego firefighters should not have been forced to participate in the city’s “Gay Pride Parade.”

Cynthia and Robert Gifford

Cynthia and Robert Gifford are a New York couple who own a farm where they occasionally host weddings. After declining to host a same-sex wedding ceremony, the New York Division of Human Rights fined them $10,000, plus $3,000 in damages.

A New York court upheld the ruling and the Giffords elected to not to appeal.

Kelvin Cochran

Kelvin Cochran was suspended in November 2014, then subsequently dismissed as the Fire Chief of Atlanta because of his Christian views on sexuality and marriage that he briefly expressed in a book he wrote in his private time.

He sued the city and the case is currently before a district court in Georgia.


Elaine Huguenin, Barronelle Stutzman, Jack Phillips, Blaine Adamson, or Cynthia Gifford are small-business owners that gladly serve all people, including those who identify as gay and lesbian. But they are facing government punishment because they declined to participate in events or create custom art that violated their conscience.

And now, because of these laws, they risk losing their businesses and, in some instances, everything they own. For example, Elaine had to close her photography company, and Barronelle, if she does not prevail in the lawsuit brought against her, will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the legal fees incurred in prosecuting her.

Related: WA Supreme Court Rules Against Floral Artist Baronelle Stutzman

Americans do not support government coercion. For example, an AP poll from July 2014 revealed that the majority of Americans support (59% support and only 39% oppose) the right of wedding-related businesses to decline to help celebrate a same-sex wedding for religious reasons.

In 2015, the legislatures of Idaho, Nebraska, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, North Dakota, and numerous cities—including large cities like Charlotte, NC and Scottsdale, AZ—declined to pass these laws. And since December 2014, citizens in three cities—Fayetteville, AR, Springfield, MO, and Houston, TX— voted to repeal these anti-diversity, coercive laws. Even in Lincoln, Nebraska, in May of 2012, more than 10,000 people signed a petition to repeal a city-wide ordinance passed by the Lincoln City Council.

Its clear that nondiscrimination laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity are not used as a shield against real discrimination, but as a sword against people of faith with convictions related to marriage and sexuality.

Nebraska Family Alliance
Nebraska Family Alliance exists to advance family, freedom and life by influencing policy, mobilizing prayer, and empowering people.