A Vermont couple previously involved in a discrimination lawsuit regarding same-sex marriage is now a part of a Maine campaign opposing the Nov. 6 gay marriage referendum.
- (Photo: The Christian Post)
In the campaign commercial, Jim and Mary O'Reilly, who run the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, Vt., speak of their personal experience facing a 2011 discrimination lawsuit and why they feel it is important to vote "no" on "question 1," the same-sex marriage Referendum 74, on the Nov. 6 Maine ballot.
"A lesbian couple sued us for not supporting their gay wedding because of our Christian beliefs," Jim O'Reilly says in the commercial, which is sponsored by the Protect Marriage Maine campaign for traditional marriage.
"We had to pay $30,000 and can no longer host any weddings at our inn," Jim adds, with the narrator of the commercial saying "vote 'no' on 'question 1' to avoid this in Maine."
The O'Reillys, who have owned their Wildflower Inn since 1984, were sued in July 2011 by the American Civil Liberties Union's Vermont chapter on behalf of Kate Baker and Ming Linsley, a lesbian couple from New York City wishing to wed at the Inn in the Fall.
The O'Reillys turned away the couple's request to wed at the inn, and the couple filed lawsuit, arguing that the O'Reillys had disobeyed Vermont's anti-discrimination laws.
The O'Reillys sited their Catholic faith as the reason they chose to turn away Baker and Linsley, telling The Associated Press at the time of the lawsuit that they believe marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman.
"We have never refused rooms or dining or employment to gays or lesbians," the O'Reillys told the AP.
"Many of our guests have been same-sex couples. We welcome and treat all people with respect and dignity," they continued.
"We do not however, feel that we can offer our personal services wholeheartedly to celebrate the marriage between same-sex couples because it goes against everything that we as Catholics believe in," they added.
The two parties reached a settlement, with the O'Reillys agreeing to pay a fine of $10,000 to the Vermont Human Rights Commission and $20,000 to a charitable trust created by the lesbian couple.
Regardless of the lawsuit and subsequent settlement costs, the O'Reillys continued to maintain their strong Catholic faith.
"The Wildflower Inn has always served – and will continue to serve – everyone in our community. But no one can force us to abandon our deeply held beliefs about marriage," said Jim O'Reilly in a statement, as previously reported by The Christian Post.
"Our beliefs haven't changed, but we do have lives to live, a family to love, a business to grow, and a community to serve," he added.
Maine joins three other states, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota, in the Nov. 6 Referendum 74 vote to redefine marriage.
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in seven U.S. territories: the District of Columbia, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa.