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NEWS: Court Says Farmers Must Pay $13,000 for Refusing Gay Wedding

An appeals court ruled that the owners
of a farm in New York State must pay a $13,000 fine for refusing to have
a same-sex wedding on their property despite their religious objection
to gay marriage.

The Third Judicial Department of the New York
Supreme Court’s Appellate Division ruled on Thursday that Cynthia and
Robert Gifford engaged in unlawful discrimination when they refused to
have a gay wedding performed on their property in 2012.

In
their ruling the New York court concluded that the Gifford’s farm,
which is known as Liberty Ridge Farm, fit the legal definition of a
place of public accommodation.

“It is undisputed that petitioners
opened Liberty Ridge to the public as a venue for wedding ceremonies and
receptions and offer several wedding-related event services in
connection therewith,” read the ruling.

“The
fact that the wedding services occur on private property and pursuant
to a written contract does not, as petitioners contend, remove Liberty
Ridge’s facilities from the reach of the Human Rights Law; the critical
factor is that the facilities are made available to the public at
large.”

The ruling upheld a decision from the State Division of
Human Rights, which the court concluded did not violate the religious
conscience of the Giffords.

“While we recognize that the burden
placed on the Giffords’ right to freely exercise their religion is not
inconsequential, it cannot be overlooked that the SDHR’s determination
does not require them to participate in the marriage of a same-sex
couple,” continued the ruling.

“Indeed,
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.”

In 2012, Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin of
Albany, New York filed a discrimination suit against the Giffords after
they refused to have McCarthy and Erwin’s wedding at their property.

New York State Division of Human Rights Judge Migdalia Pares ruled in July 2014 that the Giffords were guilty of discrimination and must pay a $13,000 fine.
During the proceedings the Giffords received legal representation from the conservative law group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Regarding
Thursday’s decision upholding the earlier decision, ADF Legal Counsel
Caleb Dalton said that Americans “should be free to live and work
according to their beliefs, especially in our own backyards.”

“The
government went after both this couple’s freedom and their ability to
make a living simply for adhering to their faith on their own property,”
stated Dalton.
“The
court should have rejected this unwarranted and unconstitutional
government intrusion, so we will consult with our client regarding
appeal.”

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