An upstate New York couple has been fined $13,000 for refusing to host a same-sex wedding on their farm, the Daily Mail is reporting.
Robert and Cynthia Gifford have lived at Liberty Ridge Farm in upstate New York for 25 years. For the past 15 years, according to the New York Post, they have opened up their farm to parties, weddings, wedding receptions, and an annual fall festival featuring pig races and a corn maze.
The couple's troubles began in 2012 with a brief phone call from a couple wanting to get married. Melisa Erwin -- now Melisa McCarthy -- called Liberty Ridge to ask about booking their same-sex wedding at the venue. Cynthia Gifford told Melisa -- politely, she says -- that the couple would have to look elsewhere for their wedding.
Unbeknownst to the Giffords, Melissa recorded that phone call, and took it to her lawyer, Mariko Hirose, of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
"They were devastated when they heard that Liberty Ridge Farm would not take their business because of who they are. NYCLU supports religious freedom. That still doesn't make it OK for businesses to break existing law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, race, sex, disability, religion or other protected categories."
Melisa and her partner, Jennie McCarthy, sued, and a New York judge eventually ordered the Giffords, who are devoutly Catholic, to pay $13,000 in fines; $10,000 to the state, and $1,500 each to Melisa and Jennie, for their "mental anguish."
The Giffords, for their part, are steadfastly denying that they are homophobic.
"We respect and care for everyone! We had an openly gay man working for us this past season. We've had a woman who's transitioning to be a man. We don't discriminate against anyone."
The couple claim that the negative publicity generated by the McCarthy's case has cost them so much business that they've had to let some of their help go. And once the weddings that are currently scheduled have been held, the couple will no longer host weddings -- same sex or otherwise -- at their farm.
The couple's lawyer, James Trainor, says that his clients' case sets the stage for other businesses being compelled to choose between honoring their religious principles or complying with the law.
"We've gone from tolerance to compulsion. State government should not be forcing people to violate their own religious beliefs, nor should they be forced to make a choice between making a living and violating their own faith."
As gay rights become more prominent and more accepted, the issue of religious freedom continues to butt up against the rights of gays. In October, a devoutly Christian Kentucky printer was ordered to attend sensitivity training for refusing to print shirts for a gay pride event, according to this Inquisitr report.
Do you believe the Giffords should have been fined for refusing to host a same sex wedding?
[Image courtesy of: News Weekly]