NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) – A New York couple is fighting the state over $13,000 in fines imposed because they declined to hold a same-sex wedding ceremony on their home property, Liberty Ridge Farm in upstate Schaghticoke, which also hosts seasonal public events like pumpkin picking, a corn maze, weddings and receptions.
Cynthia and Robert Gifford paid $10,000 to the state for violating anti-discrimination laws and $1,500 each to lesbian partners for alleged mental anguish. Now James Trainor, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney, is representing the devout Christian family to recover the money the state forced them to pay in violation of their religious freedoms, he said.
The issue arose because of a "set up" phone call a lesbian couple made to inquire about renting the Giffords' home for their wedding ceremony, according to the ADF website. The same-sex partners recorded the polite decline from Cynthia Gifford and submitted a complaint to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit on their behalf, and an administrative judge in the Bronx ruled against the Giffords, saying their home farm was a "public accommodation."
But the Giffords claim they do not discriminate against anyone even if their religious beliefs do not condone same-sex marriages.
According to ADF, the Giffords told the couple they "were welcome to any other events on the farm and were willing to host the wedding reception," but they declined to host the ceremony, "which they could not in good conscience host."
Cynthia Gifford told the New York Post she and her husband did not discriminate and even had an openly gay man on staff this past season, and at one time "had a woman who's transitioning to be a man. We don't discriminate against anyone," she said.
The ADF says the Giffords "are just the latest in a long list of people who do not want to be forced to celebrate a wedding that violates their religious beliefs and conscience."
The Alliance Defending Faith offers free legal representation on religious freedom issues and invites anyone facing situations similar to the Giffords' to contact the ADF for possible help.