Same-Sex Shindigs

Farmers fined


There are a plethora of places to get married in and around Albany, New York. In Liberty Ridge Farm, Jennie McCarthy and her fiancée Melisa thought they had found the perfect venue. But when they inquired about renting out Liberty Ridge's barn for their wedding, they were rebuffed: The owners, Robert and Cynthia Gifford, do not host weddings for same-sex couples. The Giffords explained that this policy was based on religious beliefs that marriage should only be for heterosexuals.

Finding this rejection "heartbreaking," Melisa and Jennie filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. Because of this blow, the women "were so upset that they stopped looking for wedding venues for several months." They eventually found another farm venue nearby, however, and were married there in August 2013.

So…all's well that ends well? Hardly. This summer, the Division of Human Rights found Liberty Ridge guilty of unlawfully discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Judge Migdalia Parés ordered the Giffords to pay $1,500 in mental anguish damages to each of the women and $10,000 in civil damages to the state, with a 9 percent interest rate taking effect after 60 days. Parés also demanded the Giffords "cease and desist from discriminatory practices" and establish "anti-discrimination training and procedures" for farm employees.