New York couple fined $13,000 for refusing to host gay marriage
An appellate court in New York has upheld a $13,000 judgment against Cynthia and Robert Gifford, who own a 100-acre farm in Rensselaer County that the couple sometimes used to host wedding receptions, for refusing to allow a lesbian couple to use their facility.
The court rejected the couple's First Amendment argument, claiming that their rights were not infringed upon.
After being hit with a complaint, the Giffords were fined $10,000 by the state Division of Human Rights and also ordered to pay the McCarthys $1,500 each in damages for “the emotional injuries they suffered as a result of the discrimination.”
In affirming the earlier decision by the state Department of Human Rights, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division said that the agency’s determination “does not require them to participate in the marriage of a same-sex couple.”
“Indeed, the Giffords are free to adhere to and profess their religious beliefs that same-sex couples should not marry, but they must permit same-sex couples to marry on the premises if they choose to allow opposite-sex couples to do so,” Presiding Justice Karen K. Peters said in the 14-page opinion.
Caleb Dalton, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom representing the Giffords, said the court “should have rejected this unwarranted and unconstitutional government intrusion,” and that the couple is considering an appeal.
New York’s highest court is the New York State Court of Appeals.
“All Americans should be free to live and work according to their beliefs, especially in our own backyards,” Mr. Dalton said in a statement. “The government went after both this couple’s freedom and their ability to make a living simply for adhering to their faith on their own property.”
Attorneys for the Giffords had argued that forcing them to host a same-sex wedding amounted to compelled speech and a violation of their First Amendment rights.
“We had hoped that the court would recognize that the government has clearly gone too far,” co-counsel James Trainor said in a statement. “The Constitution prohibits the government from forcing anyone to help communicate messages that conflict with their core beliefs about marriage. The Giffords welcome all people to the farm, but not all messages or events.”
The Giffords also said they would host wedding receptions, parties or other events on behalf of same-sex couples, but the court’s opinion said that their “purported willingness to offer some services to the McCarthys does not cure their refusal to provide a service that was offered to the general public.”
The reason the couple refused to allow the lesbian couple to marry on their property is because the wedding ceremonies they hosted for opposite-sex couples took place on the first floor of their own home. In effect, the court is telling the couple what they can and cannot do with their private space – an outrageous legal theory.
Note the use of the word "cure" in the opinion. The state thinks the Giffords are suffering from a mental disease:
The couple was also ordered “to implement re-education training classes designed to contradict the couple’s religious beliefs about marriage,” according to the ADF.
Let the re-education commence!
That the Giffords were perfectly willing to allow the gay couple to use their facilities for a reception should have fulfilled the anti-discrimination requirement in the law. That it didn't should send chills down our spines as the courts look to force Americans to agree with gay marriage 100% – or pay the price.