A couple has settled a discrimination lawsuit it filed against a Vermont inn that refused to host a wedding reception for the two women. The couple claimed the inn operators discriminated based on sexual orientation.
The settlement calls for the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville to pay $10,000 to the Vermont Human Rights Commission as a civil penalty for violating Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, as well as $20,000 in a charitable trust to be disbursed by the couple, according to the Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Kate and Ming Linsley of New York contacted the ACLU after the inn’s events manager told Ming Linsley’s mother that, due to the innkeepers’ “personal feelings,” the inn did not host “gay receptions,” according to the organization.
In a statement, the owners of the Wildflower Inn said the settlement shows they were correct to rely on a 2005 Human Rights Commission decision regarding disclosure of religious beliefs. The inn will no longer rely on that decision and will no longer host weddings.
“The Wildflower Inn has always served — and will continue to serve — everyone in our community. But no one can force us to abandon our deeply held beliefs about marriage,” Wildflower Inn owner Jim O’Reilly said in a statement.
The ACLU filed suit on the plaintiffs’ behalf in July of 2011 and the Vermont Human Rights Commission later intervened as a co-plaintiff in the proceedings.
When the lawsuit was filed, Wildflower Inn owners Jim and Mary O’Reilly wrote in a prepared statement that they were devout Catholics who felt they could not “offer our services wholeheartedly to celebrate the marriage between same-sex couples because it goes against everything that we as Catholics believe in.”
The O’Reillys later said applying Vermont’ s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act would violate their right to free speech and freedom of association by forcing them to hold “expressive events.”
In a statement Thursday, the O’Reillys said they agreed to the settlement “to end this ordeal and the threat that the litigation posed” to the business.