[guest post by Dana]
We’ve already seen wedding cake bakers and bridal shop owners having complaints filed against them for refusing service to gay couples, and now we have wedding site owners being ordered to pay penalties for refusing to host a gay wedding. At their home.
Owners of a family farm in Schaghticoke, New York, are being fined $13,000 for refusing to allow a gay wedding ceremony to take place on their property in 2012, just one year after the state legalized same-sex nuptials.
Cynthia and Robert Gifford, owners of Liberty Ridge Farm, a family-friendly farm and special events venue, told Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, a lesbian couple from Newark, New Jersey, that they were welcome to hold their reception on the property, but not the actual wedding ceremony, according to Religion News Service.
The Giffords live on the premises and these ceremonies are typically conducted on the first floor of their home or on the nearby property. Considering that they are Christians and consider marriage to be confined to relationships involving one man and one woman, the two weren’t comfortable hosting McCathy and Erwin’s nuptials.
The couple has apparently had gay staff members and hosted gay events, but were simply not comfortable with a gay wedding taking place on their farm. The ruling judge rejected the couple’s argument that their business entitled them to be able to legally refuse the couple.
Judge Migdalia Pares, who argued that the fact that the owners live on the premises does not mean that the business is private in nature, ruled that Liberty Ridge Farm is a public accommodation as it rents its space and regularly collects fees from the public.
What’s left to go after?
UPDATE: The owners of Rice Creek Hunting and Recreation, which operates a lodge used for weddings in Minnesota, were the subjects of a discrimination complaint made by a gay couple after said owners turned down their request to hold their wedding at the lodge:
The Department of Human Rights investigated and determined there was probable cause of discrimination by the lodge owners due to sexual orientation.
“This is the first public accommodation case for the department related to same-sex marriage, and it serves as a reminder that businesses may not deny services based on a person’s sexual orientation just as they can’t deny services on the basis of race or gender,” Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said.
The owners of the lodge subsequently picked up the full tab for the couple’s wedding, reception and guest accommodations at another location.
The gay marriage law passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2013 provides specific exemptions for religious entities from taking part in same-sex union, but it doesn’t exempt individuals, businesses and nonprofits from non-discrimination laws based on religious beliefs regarding same-sex marriage.
The Minnesota Family Council, which opposes same-sex marriage, said the government shouldn’t force family businesses to participate in ceremonies that violate their beliefs.
“The Minnesota Human Rights Department’s treatment of Minnesota families is deplorable. They are choosing to enforce the same-sex ‘marriage’ law in an unconstitutional manner, targeting Minnesota business owners and, to top it all off, claiming victory for settling with a hunting preserve owner who should have never had to face a human rights case against him,” Council CEO John Helmberger said in a statement.