Christian Owners of NY Farm Defend Religious Liberties While Facing Discrimination Complaint

The owners of an upstate New York farm who refused wedding service to a lesbian couple due to their religious convictions are now facing a discrimination complaint on behalf of the couple.

In spite of the discrimination lawsuit, Robert and Cynthia Gifford, the owners of Liberty Ridge Farm located in Schaghticoke, continue to argue that they as private business owners have the right to turn away whom they choose, and they were simply exercising their religious liberties when they refused service to Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin of Albany, N.Y.

"They have religious liberty and they have freedoms in this country as well," Jason McGuire, a spokesman for Liberty Ridge Farm and executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, told The Register Citizen, a Connecticut online newspaper.

"In this business … they ought to have the opportunity to say that this is a behavior that they just don't agree with and they just don't condone on their privately owned property," McGuire added.

McCarthy and Erwin filed a discrimination complaint with the state Division of Human Rights on Oct. 11, shortly after the Giffords refused them service for their wedding at the Liberty Ridge Farm.

Erwin, 29, told WNYT-TV that when she told Cynthia Gifford that she planned on marrying her girlfriend of three years at the farm wedding ceremony next summer, Cynthia Gifford reportedly said "Well, now we have a problem."

When Erwin questioned "why," Gifford reportedly responded: "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."

Additionally, Robert Gifford told WNYT-TV: "I think it's our right to choose who we market to, like any business."

"We are a family business and we feel we ought to stay down the family path," Gifford added.

McCarthy told The Register Citizen that she and her partner believe that no New York business should have the right to choose service to customers based on sexual orientation.

If officials find the complaint to be valid, the Giffords may either be forced to allow weddings for same-sex couples on their farm premises, or they may be barred from hosting any weddings in the future.

A similar case took place in Vermont in 2011, when Jim and Mary O'Reilly, who run the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, Vt., were sued for discrimination after they refused to allow a same-sex couple to celebrate their wedding at their establishment due to their religious convictions.

The O'Reillys were fined $30,000 total and can no longer host any weddings at their inn.

Critics contend that this most recent discrimination case will help set a precedent for gay rights in New York, where same-sex marriage is legal.

Same-sex marriage is also legal in the District of Columbia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa.

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