Christian farm owners fined $13,000 for declining to host lesbian wedding

The Gaystapo strikes again.

A Christian couple who own a farm in upstate New York are being fined $10,000 for declining a lesbian couple’s request to hold a wedding ceremony on their property. The owners are also ordered to to pay $1,500 to each lesbian.

Liberty Ridge Farm

The Washington Post reports, Aug. 19, 2014, that Cynthia and Robert Gifford, who own Liberty Ridge Farm near Albany, rent their facilities for birthday parties and about a dozen weddings each year.

Cynthia & Robert Gifford

Cynthia & Robert Gifford

When Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, a lesbian couple from Newark, N.J., requested to use the facility for their 2012 wedding, Cynthia Gifford offered the farm for a reception, but not for the wedding ceremony. Weddings typically are conducted on the first floor of the Giffords’ home or in an adjacent field.

Jennifer McCarthy (l), Melisa Erwin (r)

Jennifer McCarthy (l), Melisa Erwin (r)

James Trainor, the Giffords’ lawyer, said the farm owners attend a community church and cite their religious belief of marriage between a man and woman for declining to hold a same-sex wedding on their property. “Liberty Ridge Farm has employed gay people and has conducted events for same-sex couples,” Trainor said. “The Giffords’ objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians.”

But administrative law judge Migdalia Pares of the Bronx rejected the Giffords’ argument that the farm, which is also their home, is not a place of public accommodation and is therefore not subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of New York’s Human Rights Law. Pares ruled that although the Giffords reside at Gifford Barn, Liberty Ridge qualifies as a public accommodation because it regularly collects fees for space, facilities, services and meals, so it cannot be considered “distinctly private.”

The Giffords must pay $13,000 in fines and restitution. Their lawyer says they are considering whether to appeal or pursue further legal action.

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The now-married lesbians filed a complaint with New York’s Division of Human Rights, and the administrative law judge said that Liberty Ridge “unlawfully discriminated against complainants solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

Earlier this year, several states, including Kansas and Arizona, considered legislation that would allow people who object to same-sex marriage to cite their religious beliefs as a defense if faced with a discrimination lawsuit. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill in her state; the Kansas bill died in the state Senate.

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~Eowyn

Dr. Eowyn’s post first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds.

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