Elvis Wedding Chapel: No Gay Weddings!

You might want to put your irony meters away for this one. The Elvis Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, where you can get married by an Elvis impersonator, refuses to do same-sex weddings now that marriage equality has come to Nevada. You can presumably still get married while drunk at 3 am to someone you just met at a strip club.

After making calls to about 15 wedding chapels, 8 News NOW found that several of them refused to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.

The Elvis Wedding Chapel, which welcomes traditional and Elvis-themed weddings, said they wouldn’t marry same-sex couples. However, when the 8 News Now cameras were rolling as we tried to get their stance on camera, they refused to open the door.

“I’m not going to tell you,” David with the Elvis Wedding Chapel said, “It just — there is no story here.”

Dolly Deleon, the owner of the Vegas Wed Chapel, said she’s a born-again believer in Jesus.

“My faith won’t allow me,” Deleon said.

Nevada law does forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Seriously, could they be any more hypocritical? They’ll do a fly-by-night shotgun wedding for drunk tourists, but gay people getting married? That would undermine the dignity and sanctity of the institution!

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
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  • Loqi

    The same types of people clutching their pearls over gays getting married were the same people freaking out over Elvis shaking his hips. Which I think means that, a few decades from now, you should be able to get a drunken wedding performed by a homosexual impersonator.

  • matty1

    What is the legal position of these chapels? Are they regarded as churches with the right to choose who they marry, like Catholic priests not accepting divorcees, or are they businesses bound by the same anti-discrimination laws as everyone else?

  • matty1

    @1 That sounds like a hell of a party actually, though am a bit worried what is involved in impersonating a homosexual.

  • John Pieret

    matty1:

    Here’s how the ACLU sees it:

    “The difference between a church and a place of worship and a wedding chapel, is that a wedding chapel is a business so that is covered under the Public Accommodations Law of Nevada,” said Tod Story, ACLU.

    Refusing service based on race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. is a possible misdemeanor under the Nevada law.

  • eric

    This is exactly what I predicted, it’s exactly what should happen…and it’s unfortunately going to play right into the fundie’s hands. The government is going to compel some priests to either marry gays or close up shop, despite all liberal protestations to the contrary. They will do so whenever and wherever a priest operates a clearly for-profit marriage shop. So, if there’s a court case on this I hope the ACLU wins. I think they should win. But I also think there’s going to be a lot of PR fodder for the right wing if they do win.

  • John Pieret

    “I would be a hypocrite if I said I’m a Bible-believing person and yet I would perform marriage that believe is solely against God’s law,” Deleon said.

    Lady, you run a business in a place that is just about the embodiment of things that are against “God’s laws” (when you’re not ignoring the ones you don’t want to follow) so we already know you’re a hypocrite. The only question is whether you are willing to keep your business open and operate according to the law or will you shut it down?

  • John Pieret

    there’s going to be a lot of PR fodder for the right wing

    They are already cashing in on it. The city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, of all places, is being sued, and an injunction sought, because city officials noted that a local for-profit wedding chapel, owned by professed Christians, might be in violation of the city’s public accommodation law if the owners refused to perform same sex marriages. Gleeful wailing and gnashing of teeth can be heard from the Xian right.

  • MarcusC

    “where you can get married by an Elvis impersonator” – Actually you can’t. You can have a renewal of vows performed by an Elvis impersonator, but if it is an actual marriage they have a minister there who has to perform those.

    Which brings up the question, would their discrimination include denying service to a gay couple who are just after a renewal of vows?

  • arachne729

    If this was a church which had standards for the people getting married getting counseling before they can get married, not being divorced, and/or being members it would be one thing to refuse to marry gay couples-the religious conviction would be internally consistent with having high standards for marriage. For such a church I think it is acceptable for them to refuse to marry gays-it is not discrimination for them; it really is about marriage sanctity. A wedding chapel that lets drunk strangers get married by an Elvis impersonator doesn’t have high standards for marriage so the reason to refuse to marry gays in the name of marriage sanctity is not justified.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    I agree with you, but I’d change the tone. There are many sincere Elvis impersonators, and I know some fine strippers and drunk people. [/concern]

  • moarscienceplz

    I wonder if there are any Liberace-themed wedding chapels, and if so, do they refuse to do same-sex ceremonies? That would be SO Vegas!

  • Pierce R. Butler

    eric @ # 5: The government is going to compel some priests to either marry gays or close up shop…

    MarcusC @ #8: … if it is an actual marriage they have a minister …

    I dunno about Nevada law, but in many states all one needs to perform a legal wedding is filling out some forms (in Fla, e.g., a notary public can tie your knot). Somehow I doubt Las Vegas wedding chapels all qualify as PoWs (Places of Worship) with certified religious ministers on staff.

  • Loqi

    @matty1

    Sure, it *sounds* like a party until you realize the homosexual impersonator is Adam Sandler reprising his role from Chuck and Larry.

  • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com TCC

    Following up on Pierce’s comment, Dolores De Leon is listed as an officiant in Clark County affiliated with the Lord of Harvest Mission Center, so she is a religious officiant. That does complicate things a bit such that she could (I believe) deny to solemnize a marriage based on her religious beliefs. If she were just a notary, since NV law does allow notaries to solemnize marriages, that would be a different story, I think. (I’m in the process of getting certified as a Secular Celebrant with CFI, so all of these issues are heavy on my mind right now.)

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Gay marriage in Nevada could lead to all sorts of sins, like gambling.

  • whheydt

    Re: moarscinceplz @ #11…

    A Liberace-themed chapel should refuse to do opposite-sex marriages…and have a very strict dress code for all guests and participants.

    Perhaps someone should start up a wedding chapel run by gays that imposes a 20-year waiting period for straight couples so they will understand the concepts of “rights”?

  • abb3w

    @14, TCC

    Following up on Pierce’s comment, Dolores De Leon is listed as an officiant in Clark County affiliated with the Lord of Harvest Mission Center, so she is a religious officiant. That does complicate things a bit such that she could (I believe) deny to solemnize a marriage based on her religious beliefs.

    She absolutely could… at the Lord of Harvest Mission Center.

    At the Vegas Wed Chapel, however, that’s less clear. If she’s an employee, I’d guess she could demand a religious accommodation of her employer; which might or might not be considered reasonable. If she’s also the CEO Vegas Wed Chapel, presumably her exception would be granted; but while that gets the person of Dolores De Leon off the hook, the Vegas Wed Chapel as a corporate entity then must find an alternative officiant to ensure that the business is able to give equal accommodation to customers.

    The Hobby Lobby ruling might allow the Vegas Wed Chapel to try for an exemption on that… but even aside from the farce of the Vegas Wed Chapel claiming “sincerely held religious belief”, the Hobby Lobby ruling was an RFRA based finding, which law has previously been held to apply only the federal government, not the states.

  • jnorris

    You can presumably still get married while drunk at 3 am to someone you just met at a strip club.

    Does that still include the free complementary butt tattoos?

  • illdoittomorrow

    MarcusC at 8 (quoting Ed in the OP):

    ‘ “where you can get married by an Elvis impersonator” – Actually you can’t. You can have a renewal of vows performed by an Elvis impersonator, but if it is an actual marriage they have a minister there who has to perform those.’

    Well, surely to Christ, somewhere in Las Vegas there’s an Ordained Holy Man(tm) who can rock a ’68 Comeback Special leather outfit?

  • speed0spank

    “where you can get married by an Elvis impersonator” – Actually you can’t. You can have a renewal of vows performed by an Elvis impersonator, but if it is an actual marriage they have a minister there who has to perform those.

    What are you on about? I just googled and found about 10 zillion Elvis’s that will marry you in Vegas. You also have to be aware that a ton of people get ordained to do weddings without being the least bit religious, right?

    I’m not in Nevada but my partner (atheist since birth!) got ordained via the interwebs and married his mom to her new husband last year. It was easier than getting a new ID from the DMV.

  • Erp

    I suspect the question might be under what rules are for-profit wedding chapels licensed in Nevada and what rules for people authorized to solemnize marriages.

    In Nevada a wedding officiant can be “Any licensed, ordained or appointed minister or other church or religious official authorized to solemnize a marriage in good standing within his or her church or religious organization, or either of them, incorporated, organized or established in this State”. An officiant can also be a notary public and one-off permission can be gotten for others to perform a single wedding. An officiant in a commercial wedding chapel is almost certainly going to be of the “licensed, ordained, or appointed minister….” category and by definition that means religious and so has the right to refuse. However a wedding chapel in Nevada is a commercial business and one moreover that can issue marriage licenses as well as solemnize weddings. I suspect a commercial wedding chapel can be forced to provide an officiant who has no religious objections to marrying a couple legally entitled to marry (including same-sex, divorced, not Christian, inter-racial) as a condition of having a commercial license. This is assuming that Nevada’s anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation (apparently they do).

  • eric

    @9:

    If this was a church which had standards for the people getting married getting counseling before they can get married, not being divorced, and/or being members it would be one thing to refuse to marry gay couples-the religious conviction would be internally consistent with having high standards for marriage. For such a church I think it is acceptable for them to refuse to marry gays

    I think that’s the wrong way to go about making the decision. If you open up a for-profit business marrying people, then you are a public accommodation and you have no right to discriminate against clientele based on what standards you think they should meet. You can’t refuse service to a divorced person any more than a restaurant or hotel could refuse service to a divorced person. If you want to set extra-legal requirements for your officiant services, you must not go the business route, but rather do it as a side activity. You have a church, in which you preach, and occasionally you take $20 to marry friends or congregants? Then sure, have any standards you like. But if you open McMarriage’s or Bob’s Big Chapel, LLC, then no, you cannot have those standards.

  • eric

    @14:

    That does complicate things a bit such that she could (I believe) deny to solemnize a marriage based on her religious beliefs. If she were just a notary, since NV law does allow notaries to solemnize marriages, that would be a different story, I think.

    Not to beat my opinion drum too hard (IANAL), but I think if she were someone who supported herself doing notary work with an occasional marriage on the side, she’d be in good legal shape. But she doesn’t do that: she runs a wedding chapel. Marriage licenses are her business, and if she does other notary work, she does it on the side. That’s why she’s going to run afoul of the law.

  • =8)-DX

    @matty1 #3

    That sounds like a hell of a party actually, though am a bit worried what is involved in impersonating a homosexual.

    Wasn’t that who Elvis was impersonating? (Full circle! I know, I know, I’m sorry!)

    =8)-DX

  • Crimson Clupeidae

    I want to see one of the Stalwart Defenders of Marriage stand up to a straight couple getting a divorce. It would be entertaining to watch the cognitive dissonance as all the right wingers scream about freedumb and rights and murka….

  • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com TCC

    abb3w: That’s a good point, although I’m not sure that the location itself matters for her right to refuse to officiate. The business itself is of course a different matter, and I don’t know enough about the non-discrimination part of this to be able to comment meaningfully. I also don’t know if Nevada has a state RFRA equivalent that might be held to apply similarly.