Cynthia and Robert Gifford, owners of Liberty Ridge Farm in New York, used to rent out their farm so couples could get married on the grounds. They will no longer offer such services because the state ruled they had to violate their Christian beliefs and allow same-sex weddings on their property.
The state had fined the Giffords $13,000 when they refused to allow a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, to be married on their farm in 2012. The Giffords were against a wedding ceremony for the lesbian couple but said a wedding reception would be permissible.
The lesbians filed suit, telling New York’s Division of Human Rights they had been discriminated against. Judge Migdalia Pares ruled because Liberty Ridge Farm is a public accommodation it had to acquiesce to the lesbians’ request. The judge said the farm was a public accommodation because it rents the space to customers and regularly collects public fees from the public. Pares said that just because the Giffords live on the farm did not make their business private, fining them $10,000 and ordering them to pay each woman of the couple $1,500.
The Giffords said they will “no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their property.” Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney James Trainor told TheBlaze, “Going forward, [Cynthia and Robert Gifford] have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their property (other than the ones already under contract). Since the order essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions, even though it will likely hurt their business in the short run.”
Wedding receptions, which the Giffords always opened to any couple regardless of sexual orientation, will continue to be open to everyone, but wedding ceremonies will be excluded from the farm.
The Alliance Defending Freedom stated that not only were the Giffords fined, but the court forced them to “teach classes to their employees that impose the state’s view of marriage.” The firm added, “The government should not force anyone to participate in or celebrate an event that violates their faith and beliefs. However, that’s exactly what the state of New York has done to the Giffords. The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples.”
The Giffords have not yet stated whether they will appeal the court’s decision.