Archive for 2012

Travis + Lindsey | Leavenworth, Washington

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Travis & Lindsey were married this summer in June, so we were excited when Lindsey contacted us to have us take their first Christmas pictures as a married couple! Travis is our former worship pastor from our church in Yakima before we moved up to the Wenatchee area. We were blessed with a nice snowfall the night before the session to spice things up. It was hard to narrow down which pictures to share on the blog but here are a few of our favorites…

Phil & Jessica Bentz
Stone Castle Photography

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Reject R-74 in Washington

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

As most people know, Washington’s same-sex marriage law, Referendum 74 is coming up for vote on November 6th. I’m sure everyone has heard the moral arguments on same-sex marriage until they’re blue in the face so I’m going to address the issue from a totally different viewpoint. I’m going to talk practically about what the law does do, doesn’t do and how it will affect businesses like mine if passed.

I’ll start off by saying I am a Christian, and I’m unequivocally thankful and unashamed of that fact because of what Jesus did for me. I’m also a full-time wedding photographer in my own business. I’m a dad of 2 beautiful children and husband of my beautiful wife of 6 years, and I’m the main income earner for the family. Photography isn’t a side thing or a hobby, it’s my family’s whole livelihood. If R-74 is passed it will have dire consequences for me and thousands of others. I’ll explain later.

R-74’s only function is to redefine marriage, and solidify punishment against anyone that doesn’t accept the new definition of marriage. This law absolutely will not give same-sex couples more rights than they enjoy right now. I recently was able to open up a friendly dialogue with a friend of mine that’s living in a same-sex domestic partnership. She made the argument that she was charged a different tax rate than her married counterparts at her company. She was under the false impression that R-74 would somehow change the federal tax code. Washington State already gave same-sex couples all of the same rights within their power under the 2007 “Everything But Marriage” law. Federal taxes are just that, federal and cannot be changed by Washington State.

Now that we’ve addressed the fact that the new law wouldn’t have any positive effects for same-sex couples other than a title, let’s talk about how this law will hurt people. Under the new law, I would be required to photograph same-sex weddings, or I could be arrested for discrimination and/or face lawsuits that could completely destroy my livelihood. The Washington State legislature SPECIFICALLY denied an amendment to the law that would allow people in the wedding industry to turn down same-sex weddings based on deeply held religious beliefs. They basically said to everyone in the wedding industry, “Obey, or face the consequences.”

Imagine a law were passed that required a Vegan photographer to be unable to refuse services to a butcher shop. The Vegan would be forced to go into the butcher shop and move the meat around to make sure they get a compelling and high quality image, so the butcher shop could sell more meat. If they refused, they’d be thrown in jail or sued. Or imagine an anti-war photographer that was forced to do a photo session for an Army recruiter’s office, an anti-gun photographer that was forced to do sessions for gun shops, or an environmental photographer that was forced to photograph a logging company cutting down trees. The list could go on and on, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I wouldn’t want anyone to be forced to do something that violates their deeply held beliefs.

Now that we’ve covered some of the ways this law can decimate small businesses in the wedding industry, I’d like to address how this would affect my church, pastors and thousand of others across the state. I know you’ve probably heard it said that the new law won’t affect churches or pastors but this is a lie, or partial truth at best. Under the new law, pastors and churches that offer their services to the public would be required to offer those same services to same-sex couples. For example, if a church allows weddings at their church for non-church members they would have no choice but to allow a same-sex weddings at the church. MANY churches allow non-member weddings at their church, and for many I’m sure it’s a vital source of revenue. The only way a church can get around the law is to close the church to public use and only allow members to use the church. This is a position no church should be forced into, for many it could be the difference between keeping the doors open or having to close because a vital source of funding would be cut off. Pastors are in the same situation. If they officiate weddings of non-members, they would be required to officiate a same-sex wedding or risk being arrested or sued. A pastor should never have to decide between following their Biblical beliefs or denying service to non-members.

I’ve heard the argument, “If you don’t want to photograph a same-sex wedding, the couple would never want you to shoot it anyway so this will never be an issue.” That could be true in many cases, but photographers and other wedding professionals are already being sued for denying their services to same-sex weddings, even in states where gay marriage and civil unions aren’t even legal. And guess what…the same-sex couples are winning, even in states where civil unions and same sex marriage aren’t legal!! Many same-sex couples might just find another professional if denied service, but some will be genuinely offended to the point where they take legal action or they’ll take advantage of the situation to “teach them a lesson.” Just the fact that this law leaves the door wide open to arrest and legal action should be enough to see that this law does nothing for same-sex couples and will only be used as a club to beat the rest of us into submission. This is wrong and will hurt many, many people. It will take away our 1st Amendment rights of freedom of religion, as we will be forced to violate our religious freedom that’s been protected since the creation of our great nation. I, for one, absolutely cannot and will not dishonor God with my business and I will not follow this law if passed.

This new law will affect more than just businesses in the wedding industry, churches and pastors. It will affect everyone. It will certainly open the door for further spreading the gay agenda in our public schools, as is already being done in California. It is now California law that schools must “teach students about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.” Mark my words, this law will be used to indoctrinate our children and will eventually turn free speech opposing homosexuality into a hate crime.

My family, friends, and thousands of others can be hurt and could lose our businesses and could even lose our freedom for following our conscious and beliefs. PLEASE see this law for what it truly is and Reject R-74.

Philip Bentz
Photographer and owner of Stone Castle Photography

UPDATE: I’ve been following this law ever since it was first proposed, and I know it was originally proposed that churches would have to host same-sex weddings if their facilities were opened to the public. Here’s the original text:

“Consistent with the law against discrimination, chapter 49.60 RCW, no religious organization is required to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods related to the solemnization of celebration of a marriage unless the organization offers admission, occupancy, or use of those accommodations or facilities to the public for a fee, or offers those advantages, privileges, services, or goods to the public for sale.”

I couldn’t find this text in the final version that was passed so I’m not sure if it was omitted or if I overlooked it. I did however, find something I find a little disturbing because I know how words can be picked apart by lawyers:

“No religious organization is required to provide
accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods
related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”

At first glance this looks like it covers churches from having to allow same-sex weddings, but look at the wording at the end. It says; “related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage” Marriage is general. In other words, a church doesn’t have to allow marriage ceremonies…but what if they DO allow marriage ceremonies (like pretty much every church does)? If they allow marriage in general, do they have to allow same-sex weddings along with regular weddings? It’s clear from the original text that the legislators had every intention of forcing churches to host same-sex weddings so I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the last we’ve heard about religious institutions and same-sex weddings. Let’s reject R-74 and not have to find out.