Cynthia and Robert Gifford have owned and operated Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, New York for over 25 years. Like many small farm families, they open the farm to the public for events like berry picking, fall festivals, and pig racing.
They also host weddings and receptions. When the Giffords host weddings, they are involved in every aspect of the wedding planning and celebration: they greet and drive guests in their farm trolley, decorate the barn, set up floral arrangements, arrange fireworks displays, and provide catering. The only wedding-related service Liberty Ridge Farm does not offer is providing the official for the wedding ceremony.
Melissa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy contacted the Giffords to rent the family’s barn for their same-sex wedding ceremony and reception. Cynthia Gifford responded that she and her husband would have to decline their request as they felt they could not in good conscience host a same-sex wedding ceremony at their home.
Unfortunately, New York’s Human Right’s law (Executive Law, art. 15) creates special privileges based on sexual orientation that trump the rights of business owners. Because the Giffords’ family farm is open to the public for business, New York classifies it as a “public accommodation” and then mandates that it not “discriminate” on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Giffords must pay a $1,500 mental anguish fine to each of the women and pay $10,000 in civil damages penalty to New York State. If they can’t pay in 60 days, a nine percent interest rate will be added to that total. The Giffords must also institute anti-discrimination re-education classes and procedures for their staff.
The question is whether this law just. Should the government be able to force family businesses to betray their consciences and participate in ceremonies that violate their beliefs? Should the government be in the business of “rehabilitating” consciences or “re-educating” its citizens to change their moral beliefs about the definition of marriage?
Or more to the point, should the government dictate who a private business does business with?
I sent the above to friend who is lesbian and involved in seeing that same sex marriages are accorded all the rights of conventional marriages. She replied:
I would need to agree with the government. I don't believe the fine is okay, as it does appear a bit high.
However, I do feel that if any business is offering services to the public then gay or straight, black or white and all the colors of the rainbow in-between, shall be served.
It is not religious belief, it is a frickin' barn. And if these folks serve the public, that is what a public business does.
The part about 'having gays come for hay rides, picking fruit (wow-did they think that one out!!),' and so forth, their personal feelings are out of line, from my way of looking at it. You just can't have it both ways. This appears to be their way of thinking.
Phooee. I don't think they need the 're-training' but if they have a public business license then the rules are clear.
You might suspect that I would take a different tack on this.
You’re either on the right side of history and humanity, or you’re not. But, it’s not a proper function of government to coerce people into playing nice.
First, a business license does not require you to do business with anyone. But this goes way beyond that. This is coercive big government run amok. A government that believes it should be able to interfere in even the most intimate affairs of its citizens. Where is the line on what rights the business owners have and the “rights” of potential customers? The definition of Fascism is government control of privately owned capital.
Is the next step a requirement that any one that can sign a marriage license, be required to marry anyone?
I am a rule of law type. Laws are made a legislature, a group of people elected to make laws. Here we have regulations, not laws, made by one elected person, a governor. The entire world had this form of government until modern times. The King made the rules and his judgment could not be over ruled. This is still the way most countries operate.
The proper function of the executive is to see that the laws are faithfully administered. The executive does not make laws.
Courts operate under the law. They do not makes law.
I understand the couple had their feelings hurt. [or cynically, they suspected the response of the owners and went after them] There is no law they could have sued under. So, a progressive governor created an unelected commission to dispense “justice”.
This incident shows a system without legal protection for free speech or the right of association, rights that evolved in Western law, that are being reined in for political correctness. Perhaps I should be relived they were not burned at the stake.