A New York farm family has been fined by state human rights officials for refusing to allow their farm property to be used for a same-sex union ceremony. Cynthia and Robert Gifford
were found guilty of state laws
banning discrimination based on "sexual orientation."
The Giffords own Liberty Ridge Farm in Schagticoke, New York, a rural area in east central New York state not far from Albany. The family opens up the 50-acre farm to the public for berry picking, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and fall festivals.
The Giffords live on the second and third floors of a barn at Liberty Ridge Farm. They make the first floor of the barn available for special functions including wedding ceremonies and wedding receptions. During such
ceremonies, they allow part of their living space on the second floor to be used as a bridal suite.
The Giffords were approached in September of 2012 by a lesbian "couple" who wanted to use the family's barn for a same-sex "wedding" ceremony and reception. Because of their religious convictions, they declined the request, feeling that they could not allow their family home to be used to celebrate an occasion that violates God's decrees.
The lesbian "couple" then filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, alleging that they were victims of "sexual orientation" discrimination.
Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Peres determined that the family barn was a "place of public accommodation," and that the refusal to allow the same-sex ceremony was an illegal "denial of access." "The fact that the the Giffords reside at Gifford Barn does not render it private," the judge wrote.
Judge Peres imposed a $10,000 civil damages fine on the Giffords and ordered them to pay $3000 in damages to the lesbian "couple" for their "mental pain and suffering." She also ordered the Giffords to provide "sensitivity training" to any farm help who would qualify as employees under the law.
"We believe it is our right to choose who we market to, just like any business," said Robert Gifford. "We are a family business and we feel we ought to stay down the family path."Jason McGuire
, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, points out that the family business has not refused service to homosexual customers. In fact, they even allowed another lesbian couple to hold a birthday party for their adopted child at the farm.
"Anyone, regardless of their sexual preference, can pick blueberries, ride the trolley, or participate in any of the other opportunities Liberty Ridge provides," McGuire says. "But the Giffords drew the line at what they felt
was participating in a 'wedding' that violated their conscience. For that, they're paying a price. People should not have to violate their religious and moral convictions--especially in their own homes--as the price of doing business."
Jim Trainor, an attorney for the Giffords, says anti-discrimination laws go too far when they turn a private residence into a place of accommodation. "The family farm is the Giffords' home. They live there, they work there, they raise their kids there."
Trainor points out that the Giffords are not just renting out their barn for wedding ceremonies and receptions. They are personally involved in every aspect of the wedding occasion. They decorate the barn, they set up floral arrangements, they provide the catering, they organize a fireworks display. They even greet and drive guests in their farm trolley. In being forced to sponsor
same-sex ceremonies on their property, they would be compelled to be intimately involved in every aspect of a ceremony that God calls an abomination.
McGuire says that citizens of New York were betrayed by the New York Legislature when they adopted same-sex "marriage" legislation. "When the bill was passed, we were promised that religious freedom amendments would protect our religious liberties. Our legislators bought the lie and today every New Yorker is living the lie. Town clerks are out of work and business owners are facing human rights complaints. All kinds of people are now being impacted by the Empire State's religious
The incident at Liberty Ridge Farm is just the latest outrageous episode resulting from revisions to state and local "public accommodations" laws. "Gay rights" activists have aggressively pushed for modification of these anti-discrimination laws to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity," along with involuntary characteristics such as age, race, gender, and disability.
A New Mexico photographer was ordered to pay $6000 in attorney's fees to a lesbian "couple" after she declined to photograph their "civil union" ceremony. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Elaine Hugenin
was guilty of "sexual orientation" discrimination, and that
she had forfeited her religious freedoms when she decided to enter the marketplace.
A Washington State florist is being prosecuted by that state's Attorney General for declining to provide flowers for a same-sex "wedding." Bakers in Oregon and Ohio have been found guilty of "sexual orientation" discrimination, and been required to undergo "rehabilitation" training.
The Missouri Senate approved a bill during the 2013 session which would have added "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Missouri's "public accommodations" statutes. Fortunately, the Missouri House preserved the religious freedoms of Missouri business owners by refusing to take up the bill for consideration.