NEW YORK: Upstate Wedding Venue Fined For Refusing Same-Sex Ceremony

Via Gay City News:

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) has found that a rural wedding venue that denied a lesbian couple use of its facility violated the state’s Human Rights Law. In the August 8 ruling –– first reported in the Albany Times Union –– Acting Commissioner Helen Diane Foster formally adopted a recommendation by Migdalia Pares, an administrative law judge, that the two women receive $1,500 each in compensatory damages and the venue, Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, located between Albany and Saratoga Springs, pay the state a fine of $10,000.

In 2012, seeking a rustic setting for their marriage, the couple, Melisa and Jennifer McCarthy, contacted Liberty Ridge, which advertises online as a wedding venue. In a telephone conversation, Cynthia Gifford, a co-owner, initially encouraged Melissa to visit the facility. According to the DHR ruling, however, when Melissa referred to her fiancé, who was listening in on to the call as well, as “she,” Gifford told her there was “a little bit of a problem” because “we do not hold same-sex marriages here at the barn.”

When Melissa challenged the legality of Liberty Ridge’s policy, Gifford responded, “We are a private business.” Pressed to explain why the venue had the policy, Gifford responded, “It’s a decision that my husband and I have made that that’s not what we wanted to have on the farm.” Answering the couple’s discrimination claim, the Giffords contended they have a “specific religious belief regarding marriage.”

The attorney for Liberty Ridge says that he was surprised that the venue did not get an exemption from state law under Hobby Lobby. An appeal is being considered.