Win for LGBT Equality: Court Says No To Religious Exemption

A New York appeals court ruled yesterday that an upstate farm that rents out its premises for weddings illegally discriminated against a same-sex couple when it refused to host their wedding ceremony.  The court rejected the farm’s claim that the owners’ religious beliefs exempted them from New York’s long-standing equality law. 

Melisa and Jennifer McCarthy were thrilled to find what they thought would be the perfect wedding venue when they discovered Liberty Ridge Farm, a “one-of-a-kind” location that promotes itself as a “picturesque setting for weddings all year round.” But when the farm’s owner, Cynthia Gifford, heard that they were a same-sex couple, she said that the farm does “not hold same-sex marriages.”  When pushed for a reason, she would say only that “it’s a decision that my husband and I have made that that’s not what we wanted to have on the farm.” 

The appeals court recognized this refusal as blatant, explicit discrimination that violates New York State’s law that businesses open to the public must be open to everyone, including LGBT people.  The court made clear that the owners can continue to hold and express their religious beliefs about marriage, but those beliefs do not justify discrimination in how they run their business. 

The New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU represent the McCarthys in this case, which is part of a larger advocacy agenda around LGBT non-discrimination and religious exemptions.  First, in cases from Washington to Colorado to Illinois, we are fighting to ensure that courts don’t insert religious exemption provisions into LGBT non-discrimination laws that don’t contain them.  That’s why these cases about inns and bakeries and florists are so important – a win for the business owners would seriously dilute the non-discrimination protections that we worked so long and hard for.  We’re also fighting to ensure that government workers, like Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, can’t pick and choose who gets access to government services (including marriage licenses) based on the government workers’ religious beliefs. 

Second, we are working in state legislatures all across the country to stop bills that would create or expand religious exemptions that undermine equality protections.  In 2015 we managed to defeat the vast majority of those bills, and we’re prepared to fight them again.  Here’s a list of the many bills that have been proposed so far in 2016. 

Third, we are shaping the public discussion about these religious exemption proposals to help America understand that these exemptions, like those sought by the business in this case, would authorize discrimination.  Stories like that of Melisa and Jennifer help us do just that. 

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Anonymous

See. The perverts are forcing us to except their debauchery. Even on are own property we have no religious freedom. Left wing judges are forcing us to participate in debauchery. Why does the ACLU hate Christian morality so much? I guess it's because they hate Jesus.

Jim Dirks

Bigotru, is not religious freedom and being LGBT is not perverse. It is a matter of birth
On the other hand, youR self declared superiority, IS a choice. A very non-Christian choice to boot.

Anonymous

Jesus is gay!

Anonymous

Accept, not except. Please retake 7 th grade English. If property is used in the trade or business, it is no longer private property. It becomes part of a business enterprise and as such is governed by federal and state laws. This means that the business must not discriminate. If they would like to continue to spew their hatred in the name of religion, they may do so, privately. Once you are a business then you have to keep your hatred to yourself.

Lionel K. Slouber

You are wrong and an > Closed Minded Anti LGBTQ Jerk<. Business owners have to go by laws of the State & Federal Governments or they can be in breach of the laws and loose their business. If you own an business you got to be open to >Everyone<. I am an proud & out Gay Male Pagan / Wiccan. I have my > Right To Free Speech & To practice my Religion Under U.S. Law<. I had an enough of you bible thumpers saying what I can't do as an United States Citizen. I support Human, Civil, Women's, LGBTQ, & Equal Rights. You bible thumpers and the Republicans just want to take away hard won rights and force everyone to be enslaved sheeple to make money for the > Greedy Super Rich

RMS81

You don't speak for Christian morality any more than ISIS speaks for Islamic morality. Plenty of Christians support LGBT rights. Even 90-year-old Queen Elizabeth, the head of the Anglican church does.

The law in New York is clear -- if you accommodate the public on your property, you cannot distinguish on the basis of sex when providing services. A contract between a man and a woman is equal to a contract between 2 women because the men and women are one under the law.

Anonymous

Jesus tells us to love, not judge. I love Jesus and I stand with the ACLU on this. You don't have to invite same sex couples to your home for dinner, but if you open up a business on your property that serves the public, you can't discriminate.

Anonymous

You're just sad. May peace and god be with you my friend.

Anonymous

Did you read the article? New York requires public businesses be open to ANYONE. That certainly includes the LGBT community. The ACLU is not going to defend someone that disregards the laws that applies to them.

Michael Lary

Anonymous, u r 100% wrong in ur statement. Public accommodations cannot discriminate. It is as simple as that. Liberals (left eingers) "hate" Jesus? Ur bias is more damaging to democracy, and to religious freedom, than any same sex couple could ever be. Why is it necessary to make childish comments? Live life fully by living without judgment.

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