It gives new meaning to the term “shotgun wedding”: Government officials in New York have told an upstate farming couple that they must host same-sex “weddings” on their property — and because they refused to do so they must pay a $13,000 fine.
The hapless farmers are Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who have owned Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, New York, for more than a quarter century. During much of that time at least, writes The Daily Signal’s Leslie Ford, they have opened “the farm to the public for events like berry picking, fall festivals, and pig racing” — and, sometimes, for weddings. This was never a problem until 2012, when, reports Ford, “Melissa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy contacted the Giffords [by telephone] 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.”
Unbeknownst to the Giffords at the time, however, the phone call was being recorded.
What happened next was that Erwin and McCarthy filed a discrimination complaint with the government. On what basis? Ford explains, “New York’s Human Right’s [sic] 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 were then found in violation of the law and were “ordered by DHR [Division of Human Rights] Judge Migdalia Pares and Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to pay $10,000 in fines to the state and an additional $3,000 in damages to the lesbian couple … for ‘mental pain and suffering.’ Additionally, the Giffords must provide sensitivity training to their staff, and prominently display a poster highlighting state anti-discrimination laws,” reports Lifesite’s Kirsten Andersen.
This issue strikes especially close to the Giffords’ heart because “marriage ceremonies on the farm typically take place in and around the couple’s home, where they live full-time and are raising their two children,” writes Andersen. “They consider the farm their home,” said the Giffords lawyer, Jim Trainor. “They live there, they work there, they raise their kids there.” In fact, not only is the couple intimately involved in planning weddings they host — providing catering, floral arrangements, and everything else save a wedding official — but they even allow part of their living quarters to be used as a bridal suite.
None of this mattered to the NYS DHR, however. This prompts Ford to ask, “Should the government be able to coerce a family farm into hosting a same-sex wedding?” She then answers, “In a free society, the answer is no” and explains, “Government shouldn’t be able to fine citizens for acting in the market according to their own — rather than the government’s — values, unless there is a compelling government interest being pursued in the least restrictive way possible.” As many critics would point out, however, there’s the rub. What constitutes a “compelling government interest”? And should the state have the power to use private property for its own interests in the first place?
We live in a sick and sad, sin-depraved society that long ago rejected the Christian values that this nation was founded upon; this story proves that little notion. Christians talk of revival; what bunk! — that ship sailed long ago. Judgement is coming, but, there is hope.