The ACLU and the ACLU of Vermont filed a lawsuit today against the Wildflower Inn, a Vermont resort that refused to host a lesbian couple’s wedding reception due to the owners’ personal bias against lesbian and gay people. Channie Peters, the mother of one of our clients, Ming Linsley (right), writes about why she’s part of the lawsuit.
Like most mothers, I was filled with a flood of emotions when my daughter Ming told me that she had just become engaged to someone we love and believe is the perfect life partner for her. My husband and I were thrilled, delighted, excited and brimming with love for our daughter and her partner Kate. So of course, when asked, I undertook the job of planning their wedding reception with joy and enthusiasm. I contacted the Vermont Convention Bureau for help in finding a venue for the reception, and soon received an email and brochure from the Wildflower Inn describing their wonderful facilities and encouraging me to hold the reception there.
Imagine my shock when I called the Wildflower Inn and they told me that they have a policy of not hosting “gay receptions.” How could this be? I was incredulous, then disappointed and hurt. Someone who didn’t even know us was telling me that my lovely daughter wasn’t good enough to have her reception at their facility while everyone else who sees the resort’s website is welcome.
When I realized that Vermont is one of 21 states that includes sexual orientation as a protected class in its anti-discrimination laws, I felt — and feel — strongly that this case is not about my daughter’s wedding. This is about a public place breaking the law. If I go into a store and shoplift, I will be arrested. The Wildflower Inn’s owners have broken the law. It would fly in the face of this country’s commitment to the rule of law for Vermont’s anti-discrimination law not to be enforced in this case, and for these business owners not to be held to the same legal standard as every other person, If discrimination is permitted in some instances, it can happen in any instance, to anyone. Then no American can trust that there will be liberty and justice for all.
Fortunately, I soon found a perfectly beautiful venue for their reception, a place that welcomes my daughter and her fiancée. And fortunately, I also learned that the Wildflower Inn is in the distinct minority in its discriminatory policy. But that doesn’t excuse the Wildflower Inn’s discrimination or make their conduct any less hurtful and humiliating. I hope that by filing their lawsuit Ming and Kate will be able to make sure that other couples will be treated equally by public businesses regardless of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.