Lawyer urges Christian farm family to keep fighting for freedom

by Tobin Perry, |
Liberty Ridge Farm/Facebook

ALBANY, N.Y.(Christian Examiner)—After a New York appellate court unanimously turned down an appeal on a $13,000 fine levied against a couple who refused to allow a same-sex couple to marry on their farm, the couple's attorney, in an interview with Christian Examiner, urged believers to continue to fight similar unjust rulings.

There's always value in fighting for the truth. I'd also say there's hope for the future in continuing to stand for the truth and freedom for all Americans.

"There's always value in fighting for the truth," Caleb Dalton, the attorney for Robert and Cynthia Gifford, told the Christian Examiner. "I'd also say there's hope for the future in continuing to stand for the truth and freedom for all Americans."

Dalton, who serves with the Alliance Defending Freedom, notes that while the media hasn't always reported it, religious freedom cases haven't always gone against Christians. As an example, he noted a 2015 Kentucky case, won by his organization, where the court found that the government couldn't compel a t-shirt maker to print a gay pride message with which he didn't agree.

The Giffords case began when Melisa and Jennie McCarthy, a lesbian couple, were told in 2012 they couldn't hold their wedding at the couple's Liberty Ridge Farm north of Albany. The Giffords offered to allow the couple to use the property for the wedding reception and noted they have gay employees.

The lesbian couple, who wanted to marry in a rustic setting, found another upstate farm for their venue.

New York's Division of Human Rights ruled that the Giffords must pay the McCarthys $1,500 a piece and pay $10,000 to the state. They also were told to "cease and desist from discriminatory practices in public accommodation," according to The New American. Liberty Ridge Farm stopped allowing all weddings in August of 2014. The couple's appeal was declined earlier this month.

"The Giffords are free to adhere to and profess their religious beliefs that same-sex couples should not marry, but they must permit same-sex couples to marry on the premises if they choose to allow opposite-sex couples to do so," said Judge Karen Peters, who heard the appellate case, according to Fox News.

Dalton told the Christian Examiner that the case—and other religious freedom cases like it—is important for all Americans, whether they are religious or not.

"What all of these cases have in common is that they restrict the freedom of all Americans," Dalton said. "I'm not just talking about religious people. It's people of faith and people of no faith at all. What the courts have essentially done is declare the Giffords' backyard—because it's a backyard business—the government has declared it to be a free-speech free zone. That should be concerning to all Americans."

Dalton illustrated his point by considering that a same-sex couple with an event coordination business can now—because of this ruling—be compelled to host an event for an anti-gay group like Westboro Baptist Church.

Dalton estimates the Giffords have lost around $200,000 by not hosting weddings on their 100-acre farm.

"It's very difficult for a 100-acre farm to make ends meet without the ability to have other income besides just growing corn on the farm," Dalton said. "That's how the Giffords have made their living is not just through farming but also through hosting and coordinating weddings. The courts have essentially told Mrs. Giffords that she cannot be wedding coordinator. She can either agree to violate her conscience or she has to get out of business."

Mrs. Gifford had declined to undergo "training" that would have required to change her beliefs in order to be a wedding coordinator.

The Giffords are still deciding whether they will appeal this recent decision.