Two homosexual women have filed a discrimination complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights after a rural farm declined to host their “wedding” on the premises.
Jennie McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, both 29, of Albany, state that they contacted the 50-acre Liberty Ridge Farms in nearby Schaghticoke to schedule the event, as the venue regularly hosts weddings and other outings.
However, when the owners, Robert and Cynthia Gifford, realized that the two were homosexuals, they informed the women that they do not host such gatherings.
“That’s when [Cynthia] said, ‘Now we have a problem,'” Erwin explained. “This is a decision that my husband and I have made. …. [Y]ou can’t do it here.”
McCarthy and Erwin then filed a complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights, alleging discrimination. Others began to write angry messages on the farm’s Facebook page, such as “Gay dollars are just as green as straight dollars.”
However, owner Robert Gifford told reporters that he believes he has a right to decide how he will operate his business, and that it’s not about the money — it’s about morality.
“I think it’s our right to choose who we market to, like any business,” Robert Gifford told WYNT-TV. “We are a family business and we feel we ought to stay down the family path.”
His spokesperson, Jason McGuire of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, added that he felt that the real discrimination was against the Giffords and their religious beliefs.
“They still have children at home, and they feel that their rights are being violated and they’re being discriminated against because of their position on the issue of gay marriage,” he said. “If religious freedom doesn’t extend beyond the four walls of a church, then you really don’t have religious freedom at all.”
However, Susan Sommer of LAMBDA, a homosexual legal organization, states that because Liberty Ridge Farm is open to members of the public, even though it is a family-owned farm on private land, the Giffords must accommodate the women.
“If it opens its venue for weddings by the general public, it can’t then shut its doors on a same-sex couple,” she said. “You can’t open a business — a public accommodation — advertise it as a wedding venue and then in violation of state non-discrimination laws turn some people away at the door.”
Although McCarthy and Erwin are not seeking monetary damages, if the New York Division of Human Rights decides that the Giffords violated the law, they may impose fines on the owners and/or take other administrative action.
“It makes [me] feel like people are out there judging, saying it’s wrong,” Erwin said. “We just want to know that the policy is being changed to fit the laws so this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Liberty Ridge Farm states, however, that they have stopped hosting weddings altogether, so that conflicts such as these do not continue. Other attractions will remain, such as berry and pumpkin picking, their 11-acre corn maze, farm market, pig races, campfire sites and more, which are open to all.
Homosexual “marriage” was legalized in New York last July via a majority vote from state legislators. The law does include an exception allowing for religious groups to decline involvement in homosexual weddings.