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Movement toward gay marriage in the U.S. (a.k.a.
same-sex marriage, SSM), LGBT equality etc.

Part 2 of 3 parts.

2016-JAN: A "freedom-to-discriminate"
court case from upstate New York State
which found in favor of a same-sex couple.
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We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage."
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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Oppposition to SSM symbol The Gifford's defense by J. Caleb Dalton of Alliance Defending Freedom: (Continued):

  • 4. Argument based on the freedom of religion guarantees in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: The Giffords are Christians who follow a conservative interpretation of the Bible. The Bible, and the ancient Hebrews, restricted marriage to only one man and one or more women. (King Solomon held the record for the largest number of wives; he had 700 wives and 300 concubines.) The Giffords follow the Bible as currently interpreted by the vast majority of other conservative Christians: that is, that today, marriage must be further restricted to a union of only one man and one woman.

    If the owners of Liberty Ridge Farm were required to provide a venue for a same-sex marriage and also implement anti-discrimination training and procedures, then the ADF asserted that their religious beliefs would be violated, and they would be forced to alter their religiously-motivated practices and views. They claimed that the owners enjoyed protection under the First Amendment to the U.S. constitution that:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

    This freedom of religion clause was later extended and made binding on the individual state governments by the Fourteenth Amendment.

    The court quoted a number of cases including one decided by the U.S. Supreme Court om 1990: "Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith." That ruling stated that:

    "... the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his [or her] religion prescribes (or proscribes).' 1

Thus, after reviewing the State Division of Human Rights (SDHR) ruling, the New York State Appeals Court concluded that:

    "..."a generally applicable and otherwise valid enactment, which is not intended to regulate religious conduct or beliefs but which may incidentally burden the free exercise of religion, is not deemed to violate the First Amendment. ..."

    "The [New York State's] Human Rights Law does not

    '... target religious beliefs,' nor is its objective 'to infringe upon or restrict practices because of their religious motivation. ... Rather, the Human Rights Law generally forbids all discrimination against a protected class in places of public accommodation regardless of the motivation. ... The fact that some religious organizations and educational facilities are exempt from the statute's public accommodation provision does not, as petitioners claim, demonstrate that it is not neutral or generally applicable. ... Thus, we find no violation of the Gifford's First Amendment free exercise rights ...'."

    "While we recognize that the burden placed on the Gifford's right to freely exercise their religion is not inconsequential, it cannot be overlooked that [the State Division of Human Rights'] ... determination does not require them to participate in the marriage of a same-sex couple. Indeed, the Gifford's 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. To be weighed against the Gifford's interests in adhering to the tenets of their faith is New York's long-recognized, substantial interest in eradicating discrimination. ... Balancing these competing interests, we conclude that petitioners failed to show that SDHR's determination constituted an unreasonable interference with the Gifford's religious freedom." 1

  • 5. The ADF also asserted that the petitioners' free speech rights were violated.

They asserted that wedding ceremonies are:

"... inherently expressive events."

and that:

"... by hosting a same-sex ceremony on the farm, [they] ... would effectively be communicating and endorsing messages about marriage that are antithetical to their religious views on the issue."

The Appeals Court also rejected this argument on the basis that the:

"... SDHR's determination does not compel the Gifford's to endorse, espouse or promote same-sex marriages, nor does it require them to recite or display any message at all. The Gifford's remain free to express whatever views they may have on the issue of same-sex marriage. The determination simply requires them to abide by the law and offer the same goods and services to same-sex couples that they offer to other couples.

Despite the Gifford's assertion that their direct participation in same-sex wedding ceremonies would "broadcast to all who pass
by the Farm" their support for same-sex marriage, reasonable observers would not perceive the Gifford's provision of a venue
and services for a same-sex wedding ceremony as an endorsement of same-sex marriage. Like all other owners of public
accommodations who provide services to the general public, the Gifford's must comply with the statutory mandate prohibiting
discrimination against customers on the basis of sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic. Under such circumstances, there is no real likelihood that the Gifford's would be perceived as endorsing the values or lifestyle of the individuals renting their facilities as opposed to merely complying with anti-discrimination laws. We thus conclude that the conduct allegedly compelled is not sufficiently expressive so as to trigger First Amendment protections. 1

Presumably, the owners Liberty Ridge Farm could comply with the state Human Rights Law and marry same-sex couples while making their beliefs about same-sex marriage publicly known. They could post signs on their farm saying that they don't approve of such marriages but are required to allow them to be solemnized on their farm in order to obey the law. They could put similar message in the Marriage and Reception sections of their web site, on their promotional literature, etc. 2

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wedding ringsConsequences of the court decision:

The court affirmed the penalties imposed by the State Division of Human Rights (SDHR).

The Appeals Court's decision gave the owners of Liberty Ridge Farm two options: to provide a venue for marriages of both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, or to discontinue hosting of all marriage ceremonies.

The owners of Liberty Ridge Farm may be in a state of conflict if any future same-sex couples ask to rent a marriage venue, because:

  • The courts have ordered them to not host marriage ceremonies s by opposite-sex couples while refusing to host those by same-sex couples.

  • Their interpretation of the Bible seems to imply that a marriage by a same-sex couple is a serious sin. The owners might interpret this as forbidding any association with the solomizing of a marriage by a couple of the same sex.

  • The Ethic of Reciprocity-- often called the Golden Rule -- is shared by all major religions in the world. It simply states that we are to treat other people as we would wish other people to treat us. Therefore, since the McCarthy's wanted to a venue for their marriage, the Golden Rule would seem to imply that that the Gifford's should comply. Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) is quoted in three Gospels: Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31 and Thomas 6 as imposing this ethic on all of his followers. (Only the first two Gospels made it into the biblical canon.)

Apparently, they chose to discontinue all marriage ceremonies on their site, while offering to hold wedding receptions for all couples.

The "Receptions" section of their web site now states:

"Presently, Liberty Ridge Farm does not host [wedding] ceremonies on site. There are a number of beautiful sites within a 2 to 5 minute drive from the farm." 3

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today. Also, the content of the page on the external web site may have changed since this essay was written.

  1. Cynthia Gifford et al v. Melisa McCarthy et al., NY Supreme court, Appellate Division, Third judicial Dept., 2016-JAN-14, at: http://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/
  2. Liberty Ridge Farm's web site is at: http://libertyridgefarmny.com/
  3. "Receptions," Liberty Ridge Farm, at: http://libertyridgefarmny.com/

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How you may have arrived here:

Home > Religious freedom > Freedom to Discriminate > here

Home > Important essays > Religious freedom > Freedom to Discriminate > here

Home > Religious information > Religious freedom > Freedom to Discriminate > here

Home > Human rights > Religious freedom > Freedom to Discriminate > here

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2016-JAN-21
Latest update: 2016-JAN-22
Author: B.A. Robinson
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