Discover Annapolis Tours owner Matt Grubbs declined repeated requests to discuss the move, beyond acknowledging its economic impact to his business, which also operates historic tours endorsed by the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau.
Grubbs said he expects to post a full explanation on his company’s Web site by Jan. 1, and he confirmed that he sent an e-mail to prospective client Chris Belkot last month that said, “We used to do weddings until recently. But we’re a Christian-owned business, and we are not able to lend support to gay marriages. And as a public accommodation, we cannot discriminate between gay or straight couples, so we had to stop doing all wedding transportation.”
In his message, Grubbs suggested that Maryland residents contact their lawmakers to “request they amend the new marriage law to allow an exemption for religious conviction for the layperson in the pew. The law exempts my minister from doing same-sex weddings, and the Knights of Columbus don’t have to rent out their hall for a gay wedding reception, but somehow my religious convictions don’t count for anything.”
Belkot, 31, forwarded Grubbs’s e-mail to Annapolis news Web sites and fired off a response to Grubbs that read, in part, “It is your right to run your business any way you see fit, but let’s be honest here, you drive a trolley up and down a street. Not exactly God’s work.”
Owners can often face business decisions that conflict with their beliefs, according to a consultant who works with Christian businesses.
“When they’re confronted with something that they feel is against the Bible and against God’s words, our first advice is to think through the process to determine if it really is against your core values,” said Ken Gosnell, president of the C12 Group of Central Maryland, a Christian business consulting group.
Gosnell, who said he has not met Grubbs, added that the trolley company’s decision on same-sex weddings does not necessarily reveal Grubbs’s feelings about gay people or transporting them to other events.
“It could be that it’s not so much that he’s against people, so much as he’s against a policy or law that has been put in place,” Gosnell said. “That is not abnormal for any business owner to take a position about any law that affects them.”