ADF Allied Attorney Files Petition for NY Farmer Couple Fined $13K for Refusing to Host Lesbian Wedding

An attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom filed a petition Thursday in New York state court asking for a review of the NY State Division of Human Rights decision that fined farm owners Cynthia and Robert Gifford $13,000 for refusing to host a lesbian wedding ceremony on their property.

"All Americans should be free to live and work according to their beliefs. Entering the marketplace doesn't mean the government can force a person to surrender their First Amendment freedoms or face punishment," said James Trainor, the attorney.

"The commission demonstrated stunning disregard for the Giffords' First Amendment rights, which were never considered at the hearing. The commissioner's order in essence gives an ultimatum: host same-sex marriage ceremonies or none at all," Trainor added.

Under the Grounds for the Appeal section, the petition states that "when working citizen farmers are forced by an administrative agency of the state to host in their own home a religious ceremony that violates their sincerely held spiritual beliefs, their government has failed them."

The Giffords, who own Liberty Ridge Farm located in Schaghticoke, refused to host the wedding of Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin of Albany back in 2012, based on their belief that marriage is restricted to one man and one woman.

Gifford told the same-sex couple: "My husband and I have been married a really long time and it's great that you're getting married, but you can't do it here."

McCarthy and Erwin subsequently filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights in October 2012. In August 2014, Judge Migdalia Pares ordered the Giffords to pay a $10,000 fine for violating state anti-discrimination regulations, along with $1,500 each to McCarthy and Erwin.

The Christian couple has ran the farm for many years, and to supplement their income from the crops they grow, they would open up their property for various festivities during the fall, including weddings.

The Giffords decided in August following the fine to stop hosting all marriage ceremonies, even though they said it is likely to hurt their business.

ADF pointed out in August that the Giffords do not discriminate against anyone; they have hired homosexual employees and host other events open to heterosexual and homosexual couples.

"The government should not force anyone to choose between their faith and their livelihood, but that's exactly what has happened here," Trainor added. "The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing people to promote a message that violates their religious beliefs and conscience. Particularly disturbing is that, in this instance, it's happening in someone's own home."

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