NY Wedding Venue Fined for Discrimination

The owners of a farm in New York that advertises itself as a venue for weddings have been fined $13,000 by the state for refusing to rent their facilities to a lesbian couple for their wedding. Cue the cries of “TYRANNY!” and “you’re crushing our religious freedom!” from the Christian right.

The operators of a well-known agro-tourism farm in Schaghticoke have been fined $13,000 by the state for their refusal almost two years ago on religious grounds to host a same-sex wedding ceremony.

The Human Rights Commission concluded that Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who operate Liberty Ridge Farm, violated the rights of Jennifer and Melissa McCarthy who had the right to marriage under New York’s 2011 passage of same sex marriage.

Cynthia Gifford in 2012 told the couple she would have a problem allowing their wedding ceremony on the farm due to her Roman Catholic religious beliefs…

The couple, who met while in college at SUNY Oswego and had lived for a time in Albany, have since relocated to New Jersey.

“No one should have the happiest time of their life marred by discrimination,” McCarthy said in a release through the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We hope this decision will protect all New Yorkers from having to go through the hurt that we experienced.”

“All New Yorkers are entitled to their own religious beliefs, but businesses cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation anymore than they can based on race or national origin,” said NYCLU Staff Attorney Mariko Hirose, the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer in the case.

The owners of the farm are considering an appeal, but there’s little chance they will win if they file one (a similar case has already gone to the Supreme Court but they refused to hear it, letting the appeals court ruling that upheld the anti-discrimination statute in place). They will now instantly become martyrs in the eyes of the anti-gay Christian right, of course. But if they had refused to allow a wedding of two Jews, or an inter-religious wedding, or an interracial wedding, almost no one would think that was acceptable. But gay is different to many people, which is exactly the problem. If you have a business that is open to the public, you don’t get to pick and choose which members of the public you approve of that get your services.

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About Ed Brayton

After spending several years touring the country as a stand up comedian, Ed Brayton tired of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates and turned to writing as the most common outlet for the voices in his head. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and the Thom Hartmann Show, and is almost certain that he is the only person ever to make fun of Chuck Norris on C-SPAN.

  • tbp1

    I would be very interested in knowing if their “Roman Catholic religious beliefs” led them to deny the use of their facilities to a couple in which one or both of the parties was divorced.

  • rationalinks

    If you have a business that is open to the public, you don’t get to pick and choose which members of the public you approve of that get your services.

    Unless you are Hobby Lobby, then you do, you even get to discriminate against who you employ (and then get to further discriminate against).

  • busterggi

    ARe the sincerely believing Christians going to demand the right to review the guest lists for affairs held at their halls in case any unacceptable gay, black or other folks might be invited?

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    The stupidity of this kind of thing still gets to me. Let’s say you really hate gay people. Fine. But you’re running a business and their money is just as good as anyone else’s. Moreover, you’re running a wedding business. Gay people plus weddings. If you’re in the business of selling cakes, flowers, or venues, gay marriage is the best thing that ever happened to you. No matter how icky you think the homos are, pure self-interest should lead you to sell to them anyway.

    But apparently these people want to be martyrs. They’re willing to throw away serious coin just to make a political statement. A shitty political statement.

  • Matt G

    @1 tbp1- Or if the woman were pregnant. After all, the Bible does say that non-virgin brides are to be stoned to death the night before their wedding. Of course that might put the farm in a bad light.

  • Michael Heath

    Area Man writes:

    . . . apparently these people want to be martyrs. They’re willing to throw away serious coin just to make a political statement. A shitty political statement.

    In some localities it’s smart business to promote yourself as a conservative Christian. There are several businesses in my area who are overt about their beliefs, Hobby Lobby’s is the biggest. They publish a one page ad in the local newspaper promoting the Christian Nation lie; at least a couple of times a year – perhaps more.

  • howardhershey

    I wonder if it would be possible for such a business to claim not to be open to the public, but only to marriages of people from certain specified congregations (the ‘right’ ones) whose ministers refer the customers to them? It would mean substantially restricting their business, but they would specifically not be “open to the public”. I certainly can see this also, if it were legal, being a way to get around them having to offer their services to other groups covered by civil rights laws, although that would probably restrict their business even further. The equivalent of the ‘segregation academies’ (private ‘religious’ schools) that popped up in the South after public schools were ordered desegregated (until housing segregation rendered integration moot).

  • kathleenmcnamara

    Their Roman Catholic beliefs should prevent them from allowing any wedding ceremonies at their farm at all. Catholic church doesn’t allow wedding ceremonies outside of a church building or other consecrated ground, like a shrine. If they allow any ceremonies at their farm at all, they can’t really use the Catholic card to deny this couple without being hypocrites.