Couple fights $13k fine for refusing to host lesbian wedding at home

Cynthia and Robert Gifford of Troy, NY, have appealed a $13,000 fine imposed after the state found them guilty of “sexual orientation discrimination.”

A judge for the New York State Division of Human Rights assessed the fine in August after the Giffords refused to allow a lesbian couple’s wedding ceremony to take place on Liberty Ridge Farm, which they own.

The $13,000 included a $10,000 fine and $1,500 in damages to each of the women, according to the Religion News Service (RNS).

Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares also ordered the Giffords to “implement staff re-education training classes that teach the state’s viewpoint on marriage,” according to a statement from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Liberty Ridge FarmLiberty Ridge Farm, which hosts about a dozen weddings each year, has employed gay staff and “conducted events for same-sex couples,” James Trainor, the Giffords’ lawyer, told RNS.

But the couple, who live on the farm and attend a local church, drew the line at allowing a same-sex wedding ceremony to be conducted on the property because it violated their religious conviction that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

As a result of the judge’s ruling, the couple decided no longer to host any weddings on the property.

“Since the order essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions, even though it will likely hurt their business in the short run,” the ADF stated.

Trainor has now filed an appeal of that order in a New York state court, arguing that the judge’s decision ignored the Giffords’ constitutional rights.

“The commission demonstrated stunning disregard for the Giffords’ First Amendment rights, which were never considered at the hearing,” Trainor told the ADF.

“The government should not force anyone to choose between their faith and their livelihood, but that’s exactly what has happened here,” Trainor said. “The Constitution prohibits the state from forcing people to promote a message that violates their religious beliefs and conscience. Particularly disturbing is that, in this instance, it’s happening in someone’s own home.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, according to its website.

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