John M. Becker

New York: No Special Right to Anti-LGBT Discrimination

Filed By John M. Becker | August 15, 2014 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: gay marriage, marriage equality, New York State, religious exemptions, religious freedom, religious liberty, same-sex marriage, special rights, wedding venues, weddings

Church-and-State.jpegGreat news out of New York State, where the Division of Human Rights has sided with the New York Civil Liberties Union and ruled that a wedding vendor's private religious beliefs do not entitle them to a special right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples based on their sexual orientation.

The NYCLU reports:

The New York Civil Liberties Union victory came in the case of Melisa and Jennifer McCarthy, whose wedding was rejected by the owners of an Albany area farm and wedding venue when the owners found out that they were a same-sex couple...

Liberty Ridge Farm boasts it is a "picturesque setting for weddings all year round!" But the farm's promised charms turned sour when its owners rejected the McCarthy's 2012 request to wed there because they are same sex. Cynthia and Robert Gifford argued that they do not allow same-sex couples to get married at their business because they oppose same-sex marriage. But discrimination based on sexual orientation is explicitly barred under New York's Human Rights Law which prohibits establishments providing services and conveniences to the public from discriminating against protected groups.

The couple filed an unlawful discrimination complaint and the commission ruled in their favor, finding that Liberty Ridge Farm's refusal to host their wedding constituted "a denial of access to a place of public accommodation." Liberty Ridge Farm must pay a $10,000 fine for violating New York's Human Rights Law, and make an additional $1,500 compensatory payment to both Melissa and Jennifer for mental pain and suffering.

Homophobic business owners in New York, take note: when you open a public business, you must serve all members of the public, regardless of sexual orientation. Your personal beliefs do not entitle you to a special right to disobey the law and discriminate.

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