Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, campaigned Wednesday at an event venue in Lancaster County that does not permit same-sex weddings, according to its website.
The website for the Stone Gables Estate in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, claims it is “a biblical faith-based ministry/business.” In a section of the website labeled “Our Core Values,” the business says it hosts wedding-related services “as ordained by God’s Word, the Holy Bible, that are consistent with the written truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
Although the website says the Stone Gables Estate “will not tolerate discrimination against any one person,” it also appears to imply that the owners of the estate have strong personal religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage.
“The moral and ethical principles derived from God’s heart and His Word can never be compromised in any way at Ironstone Ranch and The Star Barn Village,” the website says. “The value of integrity must be lived out in both personal and corporate life.”
That statement echoes claims made by business owners in cases dealing with same-sex marriage, including a Colorado baker and a Washington State florist, that providing wedding-related services to same-sex couples is equivalent to “endorsing” or “participating in” a same-sex marriage.
A woman at the Stone Gables Estate told a reporter from The Washington Post that the estate does not book same-sex weddings. The woman declined to share her name and said she worked in event support, but referred the Post reporter to the general manager, Cameron Norris, who did not provide further clarity about the venue’s policies.
However, the Stone Gables Estate previously made headlines in 2019 when its policy on refusing to book same-sex weddings was shared widely on social media, creating an uproar. A local tourism organization, Discover Lancaster, which was scheduled to host a luncheon at the estate, canceled its plans, according to Pennsylvania news website PennLive.
At the time, the property’s owner, David Abel, defended the policy, telling the website that while the estate doesn’t discriminate against anyone, “we cannot participate in any event that would be in contradiction” to their religious beliefs, including that marriage is a biblical-based institution reserved for one man and one woman.
According to state campaign finance records, Abel and his wife have donated about $30,000 to the campaign of Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor, who has espoused a Christian nationalist viewpoint and is outspoken about some of his anti-LGBTQ views.
As a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Oz has been among a small number of Republican office seekers who support same-sex marriage. In September, he was one of 400 prominent Republicans to sign his name to a letter urging current GOP congressional lawmakers to vote in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would enshrine the right of same-sex couples to marry into law, and require those marriages be recognized as valid by the federal government.
On Twitter, Oz linked to a Washington Post story referencing the letter, tweeting: “I’m proud to join this effort with fellow Republicans. I believe that same-sex couples should have the same freedom to get married as straight couples.”
The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced by congressional Democrats earlier this summer in response to a Supreme Court decision overturning the 1973 landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, on the belief that the nation’s highest court — particularly given its recent rightward lurch — may overturn any decisions that deal with the unenumerated “right” to personal privacy. In fact, Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, suggested that the court should reconsider its rulings in a host of cases, including its 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, and a 2003 decision overturning state laws that criminalize people for engaging in same-sex intimacy.
The Oz campaign declined comment about the decision to host the event at the Stone Gables Estate.
According to the Post, Oz did not mention same-sex marriage in his brief 10-minute remarks. Rather, he addressed a crowd inside the main barn on the estate, seeking to cast himself as a centrist with practical, commonsense views, and his opponent, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, as a left-wing ideologue.
“You got to have less extremism, more balance in Washington,” Oz said. “It’s what’s gonna allow us to cope with the challenges that this country faces.”
While Oz has been praised for his on-the-record support for same-sex marriage, he has previously been criticized for other aspects of his LGBTQ record. Equality advocates have criticized him for, during his time as a popular TV talk show host, elevating a representative from a pro-conversion therapy organization to serve as an “expert” on the subject of “reparative therapy.” He has also supported bans on transgender athletes that prohibit them from competing based on their gender identity, and has praised Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing a parental rights measure, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, that prohibits or severely limits discussions of LGBTQ topics in schools, depending on grade level.
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