Churches That Refuse to Perform Gay Weddings Face Insurance Insecurity

Churches That Refuse to Perform Gay Weddings Face Insurance Insecurity

Church pastors are reaching out to insurance companies to make sure they’re covered if the church is sued for denying a same-sex couple a wedding ceremony. Now that same-sex marriage has been ruled a constitutional right, churches are worried they could face expensive lawsuits for refusing to perform same-sex marriages.

The concern comes after Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled that a Christian bakery had to pay $135,000 in damages for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

Most insurance companies are saying they have to evaluate the claims on a case-by-case basis.

“It can be confusing to customers to publicly address broad, hypothetical situations,” said a statement from State Farm. “Every claim is assessed on its own merits, in line with the language of the policy, coverages, and endorsements purchased.” 

But David Karns, vice president of underwriting at South Mutual Church Insurance Company, said: “We have received numerous calls and emails regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriages. The main concern is whether or not liability coverage applies in the event a church gets sued for declining to perform same-sex marriages.

“The general liability form does not provide any coverage for this type of situation, since there is no bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, or advertising injury,” Krans said.

The insurance company, which covers more than 8,400 churches, does provide Miscellaneous Legal Defense Coverage, which is expense reimbursement for defense costs.

Publication date: July 10, 2015