NY Agency Hears Lesbian Couple Wedding Complaint
ALBANY, N.Y. -- A lesbian couple urged New York’s human rights agency Wednesday to rule that a wedding venue outside Albany broke the law when it refused to book their wedding last year.
Melisa and Jennie McCarthy, formerly of Albany, filed the complaint against Liberty Ridge Farm in October 2012. They’re asking for unspecified damages and an order telling the farm not to reject customers based on sexual orientation.
Attorneys from the New York Civil Liberties Union argued Wednesday before the Division of Human Rights that the 100-acre farm is a business open to the public and subject to the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
"We are asking for some damages. We are not asking for very much," NYCLU attorney Mariko Hirose said.
More important is an anti-discrimination order to the wedding venue in one of the first such cases since New York legalized same-sex marriage in June 2011, Hirose said afterward. She and the couple, who married in August at another farm in upstate New York, said they expect to pursue the case in an appeal to the courts should they lose at the state agency.
Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares, who conducted the hearing, asked for additional documents and is expected to make a recommendation in several weeks. It will be up to Commissioner Helen Diane Foster to accept or amend the recommendation.
A spokesman for farm owners Robert and Cynthia Gifford said the farm is a private business on private property. Their First Amendment freedom of religion trumps state law and allows them to "conscientiously object" to something they don’t believe is appropriate, said Stephen Hayford of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. He declined to say Wednesday whether they would pursue an appeal if the ruling didn’t go their way.