New York: Wedding Venues Cannot Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples

CREDIT: NYCLU/Kelly Pfeister

Jennifer and Melisa McCarthy

The New York State Division of Human Rights has ruled that a wedding venue was in violation of the law when it refused to host a same-sex couple’s wedding. The Liberty Ridge Farm has been ordered to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution to Jennifer and Melisa McCarthy for discriminating against them.

Back in October of 2012, Melisa and Jennie sought out Liberty Ridge to host their wedding, but owners Cynthia and Robert Gifford refused on the basis of their religious views. The couple filed a complaint with the Division of Human Rights, claiming that they were illegally discriminated against. Though conservative groups insisted the Giffords were entitled to religious liberty in regards to what they host on their private property, Liberty Ridge offered full-service wedding planning services and even operates a wedding blog.

The Division’s ruling notes that according to New York State law, Liberty Ridge Farm counts as a public accommodation; because it regularly collects fees for space, facilities, services, and meals, it thus cannot be considered “distinctly private.” “The fact that the Giffords also reside at Gifford Barn,” the decision notes, “does not render it private.”

The Giffords argued that their “specific religious belief regarding marriage” only applied to wedding ceremonies and receptions and not the other services they offer on their property, and thus an exception should be made. The Division ruled, however, that the state’s laws do not provide for such exceptions.

Melisa and Jennie married last August at a different rustic venue.