- (Photo: LibertyRidgeFarmNy.com)
A New York judge issued a Christian family a $13,000 fine after the family's refusal to allow a same-sex couple to use their family farm, which they live on and rent out for various events and ceremonies, as the venue for the couple's wedding ceremony.
Cynthia and Robert Gifford's denial of the same-sex ceremony was ruled a violation of the state's Human Rights Law and deemed to have "unlawfully discriminated against complainants" by administrative judge Migdalia Peres in her ruling. Additionally, the family will have to post an anti-discrimination poster on their farm for everyone to see.
The Giffords live on Liberty Ridge Farm about 20 miles north of Albany, which is open to the public on a daily basis. The farm spans over 100 acres and hosts a plethora of activities, including weddings, parties, receptions, berry picking, corn mazes, and even a fall festival.
In September 2012, the Giffords respectfully declined to host the wedding ceremony of Melissa Erwin and Jennifer McCarthy when the same-sex couple expressed interest in using their farm as the wedding venue. However, the Giffords tried to make amends by offering to host the same-sex couple's reception party afterwards. Despite this offer, the same-sex couple still brought forth an "unlawful discrimination" suit claiming that the rejection of their wedding venue request had caused them mental anguish and set them months back in their search for another location.
The Giffords' attorney told LifeSiteNews, that the whole legal dispute stems from one brief phone call which was unethically recorded.
"The entire interaction between the Complainants and the Giffords transpired during a two to three minute telephone conversation which, unknown to Mrs. Gifford, was being tape recorded," attorney Jim Trainor said.
He further explained that the Giffords allow same-sex couples and homosexuals to host receptions and particpate in all activities the farm has to offer, with the one exception being a wedding ceremony.
The Giffords' argue that their farm, which contains their home, is "distinctly private" and its their right to express their religious values at their home and not host activities they disagree with.
The court, however, did not find that an acceptable reason.
The New York State Division of Human Rights Judge Migdalia Pares found that since Liberty Ridge Farm is a for-profit limited liability company that markets its services to the general public through its website and social media accounts, that Liberty Ridge Farm was a "place of public accommodation" and could not rightfully turn away the couple on the basis that they were homosexual.
The Gifford farm house is recognized by the State of New York as both a commercial and residential building, the judge ruled.
"The fact that the Giffords also reside at the Gifford Barn does not render it private," Pares wrote in her official court decision. "While the third floor and parts of the second floor of Gifford Barn are private living quarters, this is not enough to suggest that the entire structure is private."
Included in the state's overall fine against Liberty Ridge Farm is that it must pay the recently-married Mrs. and Mrs. McCarthy $3,000 for their anguish.
Additionally, Liberty Ridge Farm must "re-educate" their employees on the New York's current anti-discrimination law which holds homosexuals in high regard.
It is unknown yet whether the Giffords will appeal the court's decision.