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Editorial: Unhitching the trolleys

Matt Grubbs has every right to get out of the wedding-transportation business. Whatever one may think of his motivation, Mr. Grubbs has acknowledged the right of same-sex couples to equal treatment under the law and has flatly refused to discriminate against them.

Mr. Grubbs reportedly makes about $50,000 a year providing trolleys for wedding parties, just one of the services his tour company offers. He opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds. With marriage equality about to become the law of the land in Maryland, Mr. Grubbs has decided he will treat all couples equally by serving none of them.

If that were the end of the story, one could admire Mr. Grubbs for finding a way to reconcile his deeply held beliefs with the law. To paraphrase the Good Book, he found this particular arm of his business offends him, and he cut it off. Other operators will undoubtedly fill the void, and other clients may well come his way because he stepped out on faith.

But that is not the end of the story. Not content with taking the moral high road, Mr. Grubbs and other foes of marriage equality are using his predicament to lobby for a loophole to the new law: a conscience clause for commercial vendors who would rather not serve same-sex couples.

The law already respects the rights of churches, synagogues, other religious organizations and their officiants to decline to participate in or solemnize a marriage that conflicts with their teachings. That exemption, rooted in the First Amendment, was a key factor in winning passage for the bill in the General Assembly and was highlighted in television commercials before the measure went to popular vote in November.

Extending that same right to commercial vendors, though, is a step too far. Marriage is a fundamental right; there is no real alternative, which is why the law was passed and why the voters approved it. Commerce is about making money; there are alternatives galore. Among them, there are many legal ways to make money that people may find personally distasteful, immoral or even hazardous to the soul.

When that happens, though, the solution is not a pilgrimage to the legislature. The better path is the one Mr. Grubbs has already taken: Just don’t do it.