ALBANY, NY — A New York farm has been fined $13,000 by the state Division of Human Rights for declining to host a same-sex ‘wedding’ on their property two years ago, and has been ordered to train their employees to accommodate homosexual ceremonies despite their Christian beliefs.
Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Peres fined Liberty Ridge Farms in Schaghticoke $10,000 and ordered that $1,500 each be paid to two lesbians who were turned down by the facility, which also serves as the owners’ home. Liberty Ridge Farms was also ordered to provide proof that they have trained their employees not to refuse requests from homosexuals. A poster noting that the business is subject to human rights law must additionally be displayed prominently at the business.
As previously reported, Jennie McCarthy and Melisa Erwin of Albany contacted the 50-acre Liberty Ridge Farms in 2012 to schedule their “wedding” ceremony, as the venue regularly hosts weddings and other outings. However, when the owners, Robert and Cynthia Gifford, realized that the two were lesbians, they informed the women that they could not be of assistance.
“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.”
But Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Peres disagreed, despite the Gifford’s notation that hosting the ceremony would violate their religious beliefs.
“The policy to not allow same-sex marriage ceremonies on Liberty Ridge Farm is a denial of access to a place of public accommodation,” she wrote in her decision.
Peres then fined Liberty Ridge Farms $13,000, citing “the goal of deterrence” for other businesses who might adhere to their convictions and decline to personally accommodate same-sex celebrations.
Jason McGuire, the executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, decried the ruling on Thursday, noting that Liberty Ridge Farms took no issue with serving homosexuals. He outlined that the Giffords only drew the line when the request equated to personal involvement, thus violating the Scripture’s command not to be a partaker in other’s sins.
“Anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, can pick blueberries, ride the trolley, or participate in any of the other opportunities Liberty Ridge Farm provides, but the Giffords drew the line at what they felt was participating in a ‘wedding’ that violated their conscience. For that, they’re paying a price,” he said. “People should not have to violate their religious and moral convictions—especially in their own homes—as the price of doing business. People of faith should not be forced to participate in a same-sex ‘wedding’ when it violates their beliefs.”
McGuire noted that when same-sex “marriage” was legalized in New York in 2011, Christians and others were assured that they were protected under a religious freedom amendment, but now he finds that amendment useless.
“When the bill was passed, we were promised that the religious freedom amendment to New York’s same-sex ‘marriage’ legislation would do the job. We were told it would be the strongest in the nation. Our legislators bought the lie and today every New Yorker is living the lie. Town clerks, justices and businesses are impacted by the Empire State’s religious freedom farce,” he stated. “There is no protection in New York law that did not already exist prior to the bill’s passage. But after gay ‘marriage’ was enacted, clerks are out of work and business owners are facing human rights complaints. That’s the reality we are living today.”