A husband and wife who were fined $13,000 and told they could not discriminate against same-sex couples after refusing to allow a gay wedding on their New York farm have announced that they will “no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their property.”
“Going forward, [Cynthia and Robert Gifford] have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their property (other than the ones already under contract),” Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney James Trainor told TheBlaze in a statement.
A judge ruled earlier this month that the Giffords’ farm is a public accommodation because they rent their space out, and they therefore must abide by New York anti-discrimination law.
“Since the order essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions, even though it will likely hurt their business in the short run,” Trainor said.
The family will continue hosting wedding receptions, but ceremonies — which have traditionally been hosted inside the Giffords’ home on the property or at another nearby location — will immediately cease. Same-sex receptions will be allowed on the grounds.
The move comes after Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, a lesbian couple, approached Cynthia and Robert Giffords in 2012 and inquired about holding their nuptials at the Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, New York.
The Giffordses, who are Christian and hold the belief that marriage is restricted to one man and one woman, said the couple was welcome to hold their reception on the property, but not the actual ceremony.
McCarthy and Erwin complained to New York’s Division of Human Rights, claiming they had been discriminated against as a result of their sexual orientation.
A judge subsequently ruled in their favor, rejecting the Giffords’ argument that the family owns a private business that is legally permitted to issue such refusals.
Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that Liberty Ridge Farm is a public accommodation because it rents its space and regularly collects fees from the public. The judge said the fact that the owners live on the premises does not mean that their business is private in nature.
A representative for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal firm, told TheBlaze that in addition to the fines, New York State is forcing the Giffordses to” teach classes to their employees that impose the state’s view of marriage.” Gay marriage was legalized in the state in 2011.
The Alliance Defending Freedom said the Giffordses should have the right to hold and exercise their religious views without the “threat of government punishment.”
The Giffordses and their attorneys believe that the family has been punished for taking a biblical position and for exercising their First Amendment rights.
“The government should not force anyone to participate in or celebrate an event that violates their faith and beliefs. However, that’s exactly what the state of New York has done to the Giffords,” the firm said. “The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples.”
The family has not yet decided if it will appeal the judge’s decision.