A Vermont same-sex couple represented by the ACLU is suing the Wildflower Inn for refusing to allow them to have their wedding reception there in blatant violation of the state’s nearly 20-year-old nondiscrimination laws. Under Vermont law, only privately owned inns with five or fewer rooms are exempted from public accommodation protections based on sexual orientation; the Wildflower Inn has 24 rooms. It is also not a religious institution or even a religiously-affiliated business.
Shortly after Kate Baker and Ming Linsley got engaged, Ming’s mother Channie began investigating venues for the wedding and reception. She had an amiable phone call with the Wildflower Inn’s Meeting and Events Director, in which she disclosed there was not a “bride and groom,” but two brides. Shortly after the call, she received an email with the subject “I have bad news”:
After our conversation, I checked in with my Innkeepers and unfortunately due to their personal feelings, they do not host gay receptions at our facility.
Baker and Linsley are not suing for monetary damages, but merely for an injunction against the Inn’s discriminatory practices. The Wildflower Inn responded to the suit this week on its Facebook page:
The Wildflower Inn is a small family owned and operated country inn. We are a devout practicing Catholic family who believes in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. We have never refused rooms or dining or employment to gays or lesbians.
Opponents of marriage equality often take umbrage at lawsuits like this one, claiming that the defendants’ religious freedoms are being challenged. Two examples that are commonly referenced are a New Mexico wedding photographer who refused to take pictures of a same-sex wedding and a New Jersey Methodist boardwalk pavilion that refused to host civil union ceremonies; the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund defended in both cases. In this new suit, Vermont’s laws are quite clear about what constitutes discrimination and as a large public business, Wildflower Inn is out of compliance by this rejection of service.
Kate, Ming, and Channie discuss the suit (PDF) in a video from the ACLU. Watch it: