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Vermont

Lesbian couple settles lawsuit with inn that refused to host ‘gay reception’

Friday, August 24, 2012

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A Vermont inn has agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of a lesbian couple from New York who claimed that the inn refused to host their wedding reception because they were a same-sex couple.

The ACLU of New York filed the lawsuit in July 2011 on behalf of Kate and Ming Linsley, who alleged that they were turned away because of the inn’s owner has a “no-gay-reception policy.” The Vermont Human Rights Commission later intervened as a co-plaintiff in the proceedings.

Wildflower Inn

When the lawsuit was filed, Wildflower Inn owners Jim and Mary O’Reilly wrote in a prepared statement that they were devout Catholics who felt they could not “offer our services wholeheartedly to celebrate the marriage between same-sex couples because it goes against everything that we as Catholics believe in.”

According to the Vermont chapter of the ACLU, the settlement calls for the Wildflower Inn to pay $10,000 to the Vermont Human Rights Commission as a civil penalty for violating Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, as well as $20,000 in a charitable trust to be disbursed by the couple, reported the Burlington Free Press.

In a statement released Thursday, Jim O’Reilly said he and his wife were relying on a 2005 Vermont Human Rights Commission decision regarding disclosure of religious beliefs.

But it was the state’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act that prohibits public accommodations from denying goods and services based on customers’ sexual orientation. The O’Reilly’s said claimed that act violated their right to free speech and freedom of association by forcing them to hold “expressive events,” and therefore would no longer host any weddings.

“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,” O’Reilly said, adding that they agreed to the settlement “to end this ordeal and the threat that the litigation posed” to the business.

“We did not bring this lawsuit in order to punish the Wildflower Inn or to collect money,” said Kate Linsley, in a statement released by the ACLU.

“We brought this lawsuit because we wanted people to know that what the Wildflower Inn did was illegal. We didn’t want to stay quiet and allow businesses to continue to think they can discriminate,” she said.

Most of the $20,000 placed in the charitable trust will benefit non-profit organizations, with the remainder used to pay for some of the costs incurred in bringing the lawsuit, according to the ACLU.

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11 more reader comments:

  1. This is a good thing. People who want to make there living off of the public should not have the right to pick and choose who they will and will not allow in their establishment. It is a form of bigotry and hate.

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 5:28am
  2. Why would people want to try to stay at a place that clearly doesn’t want them in the first place amazes me. I’m sure there were other locations to host a reception.

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 5:33am
  3. They are a privately owned business and have the right to deny service to anyone. Just like the gay bar who denied straight women the opportunity to hold bachellorette parties. Cant have it both ways.

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 5:33am
  4. I don’t think anyone should discriminate based on race, gender, age, or sexual preference. If they refused to host a reception for an interracial couple, it would be the same issue.

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 5:36am
  5. i feel articles like this should be posted and re-posted as much as possible, and as often as possible until business and the like understand that discrimination will not be tolerated. both myself and i’m sure millions others are not aware of this incident (or its victory) so it’s great to see this! =)

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 5:37am
  6. Yes! Victory is sweet

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 5:41am
  7. ,000 ? That’s not enough …

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 5:44am
  8. sent them an email. shame on them.

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 6:11am
  9. @Dani Rae the inn’s owners broke the law: –The state’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act that prohibits public accommodations from denying goods and services based on customers’ sexual orientation. –

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 7:51am
  10. @Dani, it’s even illegal for gay bars to deny access to women and many lawsuits are there to prove it. Privately owned business can’t pick and choose who they serve if they offer their services to a community or else there would be several businesses especially in the bible belt that would still be allowed and would use their right not to serve black people or assigning special places and washrooms. You serve all customers or you don’t serve them. You can’t say “I serve you because of that and I don’t serve you because of that” based on discrimination.

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 1:17pm
  11. In a pro-gay state they should have allowed it and the fact that no other couple has to indure the same hatred by this inn any longer

    Posted on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 6:51pm