Court: Farm Owners Violated Law When They Turned Away Lesbian Wedding


The owners of an upstate New York farm violated the law when they told a lesbian couple they wouldn't host their marriage, according to a state appeals court.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford are the owners of Liberty Ridge Farm, about 25 miles north of Albany. They cited their values as conservative Christians when asked to explain why they wouldn't allow Melisa and Jennie McCarthy to rent the farm for a wedding ceremony in 2013, NBC News reported.

But the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the Giffords on Jan. 14, saying the couple was obligated to rent the space to the McCarthys because they also rented the space to heterosexual couples getting married.

The Giffords were fined $13,000 for violating New York's anti-discrimination laws. The courts ruled that there is a difference between personally held religious beliefs and human rights obligations as business owners who serve the public.

"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," Judge Karen Peters' decision said, according to Fox News.

The McCarthys were represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, while the Giffords were represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit that provides advice and attorneys to conservative clients in contentious cases involving religious liberties.

The Alliance Defending Freedom was considering another appeal, it said on its website.

The Giffords' case was weakened by a recording of a phone call in which Jennie spoke to Cynthia about renting the farm for her wedding.

"We don't hold same-sex marriages here at the farm," Cynthia said during the call, which was played for judges during the appeal.

The McCarthys, who have since married at another New York farm, said they filed the lawsuit "to ensure this doesn't happen to somebody else."

Sources: NBC, Fox News / Photo source: Liberty Ridge Farm

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