- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2014

The Christian owners of a family farm in New York fined $13,000 for refusing to host a gay wedding aren’t taking their punishment laying down — they’re taking their fight to court.

Cynthia and Robert Gifford, whose Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke doubles as a special-events venue, filed a suit Thursday through the Alliance Defending Freedom legal firm asking that a ruling from the state’s Division of Human Rights be reexamined.

In August, the state found the Giffords in violation of sexual anti-discrimination laws after they told Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, a lesbian couple from Newark, New Jersey, that they could hold their wedding reception at the farm, but not the actual ceremony, Religion News Service reported.

The Giffords were ultimately fined a total of $13,000 for violating state human rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. They were also ordered to provide training to their employees on the state’s legalization of gay marriage in 2011 and pertinent gay-rights laws, the Alliance Defending Freedom group reported.

The Giffords say the state didn’t consider their “constitutional freedoms and religious beliefs.”

“While the Giffords have asserted their constitutional religious protections as a defense to the discrimination allegations fro the beginning, neither the Division, the Administrative Law judge, or the Commissioner herself even mentioned those fundamental rights before compelling the family to either host and ‘celebrate’ same-sex wedding ceremonies in their own home, or go out of the wedding ceremony business altogether,” the appeal filed by Alliance Defending Freedom reads.

An attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom said the “commission demonstrated stunning disregard for the Giffords’ First Amendment rights … [and] the commissioner’s order in essence gives an ultimatum: host same-sex marriage ceremonies or none at all.”

The Gifford family chose the latter, opting not to host wedding ceremonies on their property, except those already under contract.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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