The Corner

N.Y. Farm Owners Must Pay $13K Fine for Declining Lesbian Wedding

A New York State Division of Human Rights fined Cynthia and Robert Giffords $13,000 earlier this month for refusing to let a lesbian couple use their farm for their same-sex wedding.

In 2012, fiancées​ Melisa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy expressed interest about using the Giffords’s Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, N.Y., for their upcoming ceremony, which hosts various events. According to McCarthy’s own account, it appears the Giffords politely declined the request and apologized for the inconvenience.

“When we asked why it was just, ‘That’s what my husband and I decided. We’ve been married a long time and it’s great you’re getting married and all, but you can’t do it here,’” McCarthy told WNYT at the time. The Daily Signal notes that the Giffords, who are heavily involved in the planning, live on the second and third floor of the barn used for events, and use the second floor as a bridal suite on wedding days.

But a New York State administrative-law judge ruled that even though the Giffords live at the farm, it is also a place of public accommodation and must abide by the state’s anti-discrimination laws, according to the Washington Times. ​“The fact that the Giffords also reside at Gifford Barn does not render it private,” the decision reads.​

As a result, the Giffords must pay $13,000 in fines: $10,000 in civil damage penalties to the state and a $1,500 mental-anguish fine to each of the women.​

The couple’s attorney said they are considering taking further legal action or appealing the ruling.

The Gifford are just the latest individuals to face penalties for refusing to violate their faith and take part in a same-sex wedding — others include a Colorado baker and a New Mexico photographer.


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