A couple who owns a farm in New York has been fined $13,000 for refusing to host a same-sex wedding ceremony two years ago.
The Times Union writes,
“The operators of a well-known agro-tourism farm in Schaghticoke have been fined $13,000 by the state for their refusal almost two years ago on religious grounds to host a same-sex wedding ceremony.
“The Human Rights Commission concluded that Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who operate Liberty Ridge Farm, violated the rights of Jennifer and Melissa McCarthy who had the right to marriage under New York’s 2011 passage of same sex marriage.
“Cynthia Gifford in 2012 told the couple she would have a problem allowing their wedding ceremony on the farm due to her Roman Catholic religious beliefs.”
Here we have private property owners who run a business–in this case, a farm–being fined by the government for declining to open their property up for an event that violates their religious beliefs–a same-sex wedding ceremony.
This is the kind of situation that almost inevitably comes up any time government begins writing special rights and privileges into the law based on sexual-orientation. In this case, the so-called “right” of a same-sex couple to get married is trumping a family’s First Amendment right to freely practice their religion as well as their property rights and any rights they have as business owners to choose with whom and how they engage in commerce.
Even though Arkansas does not recognize same-sex marriage, if cities begin passing so-called “nondiscrimination” ordinances like the one currently up for consideration in Fayetteville, churches, family businesses, business owners, private schools, and others could face criminal prosecution and expensive court battles simply for declining to open their property for same-sex ceremonies or receptions as this family in New York did.
No one should be fined or otherwise penalized for declining to have a part in something they find morally objectionable.
Debra J.M. Smith