Cynthia and Robert Gifford own the Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, New York. Each year, the Giffords open their farm to the public for raspberry and blueberry picking, fall festivals, and yes, even pig racing. On occasion, they rent out the main barn at their farm for weddings. In 2012, Melisa Erwin McCarthy and Jennifer McCarthy contacted the Giffords to rent the farm for their lesbian “wedding” and reception. Why did they wish to marry on a farm? Jennie had proposed to Melisa while they were apple picking at an orchard, and so the lovebirds wanted a farm and rustic theme for their wedding to “honor the memory” of their “engagement.” Mrs. Gifford declined their request. The Giffords explained that as they live on the upper floors of the main barn, they open part of the second floor of the barn as a bridal suite, and could not in good conscience host a lesbian “wedding.”
As seriously aggrieved and traumatized victims of this purported hatred by the Giffords, they filed a complaint against the Giffords with the New York Human Rights Commission for illegal discrimination. At their hearing, Melisa and Jennie were represented by Arthur Eisenberg, Esq., of the New York Civil Liberties Foundation. Being fully coached by Mr. Eisenberg for their hearing, Melisa testified that she was “shell-shocked” and felt “horrible” at the rejection by the Giffords. Jennie found the rejection to be “heart-breaking,” and testified that it was a “blow” to her lesbianate coming-out process. (No, I am not making that up; that is what she testified.) In fact, the couple testified that they were so upset and traumatized by the Giffords’ rejection that they stopped looking for a wedding venue for several months. (Perhaps it was the vision of big dollar signs that led to the supposed delay?)
After a hearing before the Human Rights Commission, on August 8, 2014, the Honorable Judge Migdalia Parés found that that “the nature and circumstances of the [Giffords’s] violation of the Human Rights Law warrants a penalty.” Accordingly, Cynthia and Robert Gifford were fined $13,000 for acting on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman. ($1,500 to each of the gals, and $10,000 to the State of New York.) In one sense, the Giffords dodged a bullet in that Judge Parés could have fined them up to $50,000. The judge further ordered that all employees of the Giffords undertake “anti-discrimination training.” Of course, one can ask whether the government should be in the business of “re-educating” its citizens to change their moral beliefs. That sounds more like North Korea or China to me. And should the government, even a Democrat-controlled New York state government, be able to coerce a family farm into hosting a lesbian “wedding?” The Giffords were given sixty days to pay the fine. Whether they do remains to be seen. But this case reminds me of what Henry David Thoreau wrote in his Civil Disobedience and Other Essays, “Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.” It isn’t in the Holy Bible, but it so true that it could be.
In a free society, family farms should operate in accordance with the beliefs and values of their owners. Frank Donatelli, writing recently in What Part of the Constitution Do Liberals Still Support?, available here, observed the following:
The last vestige of American liberty is certainly the First Amendment’s core guarantees of freedom of speech and religion. . . . If you doubt that, just check out how the bureaucrats are interpreting Obamacare and religious liberty. Though not specifically required by Obamacare or any other law, Department of Health and Human Services bureaucrats working with legal abortion absolutists, have issued regulations mandating that every business provide coverage for “morning after”-type contraceptive devices and drugs in their medical plans. The Obama Justice Department argued that such an edict promulgated by bureaucrats trumped the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1993, as well as the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom. Fortunately, plaintiffs prevailed in the Supreme Court (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores), but only by one vote, with four liberal justices siding with the bureaucrats. In a related case, the Obama administration is attempting to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to adhere to the dictates of HHS regulators. Apparently, even the core guarantees of the First Amendment must be sacrificed for the Greater Good.
Emphasis added. Mr. Donatelli concludes his essay, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” Indeed! Please pray for the Giffords and their colleagues, but rejoice with them because they are blessed for being persecuted for standing for righteousness, for as our Lord Jesus taught us, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We must never forget that Satan is at work whenever anyone, including another Christian, approves, supports, enables, or encourages others in any sinful behavior. If you wish to write a note of encouragement to the Giffords, you can reach them at 29 Bevis Road, Schaghticoke, New York 12154. And if you wish to telephone the Honorable Helen Diane Foster, Esq., the Acting Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights, to express your views, you can reach her at 718.741.8400. I am sure she would enjoy hearing from regular folks.