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N.Y. farm fined $13,000 for refusing to host lesbian couple’s wedding

Thursday, August 14, 2014
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ALBANY, N.Y. — A New York couple has been ordered to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution for refusing to host a same-sex couple’s wedding at their 100-acre upstate farm.

Liberty-Ridge-FarmJennifer and Melisa McCarthy filed the complaint in 2012 against the Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, N.Y., after being told their same-sex marriage would cause “a little bit of a problem” because the owners have a “specific religious belief regarding marriage,” according to court documents.

The McCarthy’s charged that Liberty Ridge Farm was a public accommodation and that owner Cynthia Gifford’s actions were unlawfully discriminatory under state law. Gifford and her husband operate the farm as a wedding venue and event facility.

Capital New York reports that an administrative law judge ruled Giffords’ rebuffed the couple after learning that Melisa McCarthy’s spouse-to-be was also a woman.

“The policy to not allow same-sex marriage ceremonies on Liberty Ridge Farm is a denial of access to a place of public accommodation,” Judge Migdalia Pares wrote.

Pares fined Liberty Ridge Farm $10,000 for violating the state’s non-discrimination law, and ordered Gifford to pay an additional $3,000 to the couple for “mental anguish each suffered as a result of respondents’ unlawfully discriminatory conduct.”

The Giffords’ attorney, James Trainor, said the couple is “evaluating” a possible appeal, and said he was surprised the ruling to did not incorporate the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, in which justices said a closely-held company could deny some forms of contraception to its employees because they conflicted with the religious beliefs of its owners.

New York’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), enacted in 2003, “prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, and the exercise of civil rights.”

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