Christian Farm Owners Slapped with Fine After Saying No to Lesbian Wedding

( [email protected] ) Aug 22, 2014 12:11 PM EDT
Liberty Ridge Farm in New York
Liberty Ridge Farm, located near Albany, New York, is owned by Christian couple Cynthia and Robert Gifford. (Photo: Liberty Ridge Farm NY)

Christian farm owners in New York who refused to host a wedding ceremony for a same-sex couple on their property have been fined $10,000 and ordered to pay the women $1,500 each. 

Religion News reports that Cynthia and Robert Gifford, who own Liberty Ridge Farm in upstate New York, often rent their facilities for family-friendly activities such as birthday parties and weddings each year.

However, when Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, a same-sex couple from Newark, N.J., requested to use the facility for their 2012 wedding, the Giffords offered the farm for a reception, but not for the wedding ceremony due to the Gifford's strong belief in traditional marriage.

The Giffords, who attend a community church, argued 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.

Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares of the Bronx rejected the argument, ruling that 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 fact that the Giffords also reside at Gifford Barn," the decision says, "does not render it private."

The women, who are now married, 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."

The judge ordered the Giffords to pay the homosexual couple $13,000 in fines and restitution.

"No one should have the happiest time of their life marred by discrimination," McCarthy, who was represented alongside her wife by the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement, according to the New York Law Journal. "We hope this decision will protect all New Yorkers from having to go through the hurt that we experienced."

However, Trainor believes the  recent  Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision that prohibited the government from forcing small companies with religious objections to provide controversial birth control devices for employees should have been considered in this case.

"The judge and commissioner each had the opportunity to reconsider the Giffords' religious rights after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that businesses can exercise the religious rights of their owners in Hobby Lobby decision of June 30, yet failed to do so," Trainor told the New York Law Journal.

Trainor said the Giffords are currently considering whether to appeal or pursue further legal action.

Tags : homosexual, Gay, gay rights, marriage, Wedding, farm, Christian