The owners of a farm in upstate New York were fined $10,000 plus $3,000 in damages after they declined to host a same-sex wedding ceremony on their property. Now they're fighting back.
Cynthia and Robert Gifford open up their farm property every autumn and host fall festivities to supplement their income. The Giffords live in a barn they built on the farm; occasionally, they also allow the bottom portion of their barn and the backyard area to be used for weddings.
ADF reports that in September 2012, Cynthia Gifford received a call from Melisa McCarthy, who was inquiring about the use of the farm for her upcoming same-sex wedding.
Gifford told McCarthy that, because of her Christian faith, she and her husband do not host same-sex wedding ceremonies; however, she left the invitation open to consider the farm as a potential reception site.
McCarthy and her partner had, unbeknownst to Gifford, secretly recorded the conversation. McCarthy and her partner then went on to file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights that proved to be successful.
The New York State Division of Human Rights ruled that Cynthia and Robert Gifford were guilty of “sexual orientation discrimination” in refusing to host the wedding. In addition to their fines, the commissioner ordered the Giffords to implement staff re-education training classes that teach the state’s viewpoint on marriage.
On Thursday, an attorney filed a petition in New York state court that asked for a review of the New York State Division of Human Rights’ decision.
The appeal filed in Gifford v. New York State Division of Human Rights argues that the commissioner did not consider the Giffords’ constitutional freedoms and religious beliefs.
“All Americans should be free to live and work according to their beliefs,” said James Trainor, a private attorney allied with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). “Entering the marketplace doesn’t mean the government can force a person to surrender their First Amendment freedoms or face punishment.”
Trainor alleged that the commission demonstrated “stunning disregard for the Giffords’ First Amendment rights, which were never considered at a hearing.”
“The commissioner’s order in essence gives an ultimatum: host same-sex marriage ceremonies or none at all,” Trainor continued.
As reported by Life Site News, the Giffords have opened their property up to a lesbian couple hosting a birthday party for their child.
Trainor went on to say that government “should not force anyone to choose between their faith and their livelihood, but that’s exactly what has happened here.”
“The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing people to promote a message that violates their religious beliefs and conscience. Particularly disturbing is that, in this instance, it’s happening in someone’s own home,” said Trainor.