New York farm owners who rent their facilities for birthday parties and wedding ceremonies have been fined thousands of dollars for refusing to host a lesbian wedding.
Cynthia and Robert Gifford were fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution to the lesbian couple after they refused to hold the wedding at their Liberty Ridge Farm near Albany, Religion News Service reported.
When Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin asked the Giffords to use the facility for a 2012 wedding, Mrs. Gifford, a Christian, said she could only host their reception on the farm, but not the wedding. Weddings typically are conducted on the first floor of the Giffords' home, and Mrs. Gifford argued the lesbian wedding would "literally hit too close to home," RNS reported.
New York City Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, which is also their home, is a place of public accommodation and is therefore subject to New York's anti-discrimination laws, RNS reported.
"The fact that the Giffords also reside at Gifford Barn," the decision says, "does not render it private."
The couple must now pay $13,000 in fines and restitution. The Giffords' lawyer, James Trainor, said they are considering whether to appeal or pursue further legal action, RNS reported.
"Liberty Ridge Farm … has employed gay people and has conducted events for same-sex couples," Mr. Trainor said. "The Giffords' objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians."
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