Religion

New York Court: Christian Farm Owners Broke Law By Refusing Lesbian Wedding

| by Michael Allen
Liberty Ridge Farm LogoLiberty Ridge Farm Logo

The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 14 that Robert and Cynthia Gifford violated the state's Human Rights Law when they refused to allow a lesbian couple to get married at their Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, New York, in 2013.

Judge Karen Peters wrote in the ruling: "The Giffords are free to adhere to and profess their religious beliefs that same-sex couples should not marry, but they must permit same-sex couples to marry on the premises if they choose to allow opposite-sex couples to do so," reported FOX News. 

The Giffords, who advertised their farm as a wedding venue, refused to allow the wedding of Melisa and Jennie McCarthy in 2013 based on their Christian beliefs about gay marriage.

The Christian couple was appealing an August 2014 ruling by the New York State Division of Human Rights and a prior ruling by an administrative law judge, which both sided with the McCarthys, according to Advocate.

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The Giffords were told to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution, and to stop discriminating against people. But instead, they announced in August 2014 that their farm would stop hosting wedding ceremonies.

Their farm's website currently says they host wedding receptions, which the Giffords said they offered to the McCarthys.

The Christian couple argued in court that they refused the women's wedding not because of sexual orientation, but based on their own religious views about marriage, which oppose gay unions. The Giffords also said their farm was not a public accommodation, even though they rent it out to members of the public.

According to Advocate, the court ruled that "Liberty Ridge's wedding facilities fall comfortably within the broad definition of a 'place of public accommodation.'" 

"We don't hold same-sex marriages here at the farm," Cynthia stated in a phone call to Melisa that was recorded by Jennie, reported FOX News.

Caleb Dalton, from the Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, represents the Giffords. He says another appeal may happen.

Mariko Hirose, the New York Civil Liberties Union attorney for the McCarthys, said in a statement obtained by Advocate: "New York chose to guarantee a society where lunch counters would serve black and white customers and businesses would not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and all of us benefit from these protections."

Sources: FOX News, Advocate, LibertyRidgeFarmNY.com / Photo credit: Liberty Ridge Farm Logo/Amazonaws.com