by Julie Tisdale
City & County Policy Analyst
We’ve all heard these stories about the photographers, florists, and bakers, who’ve been sued for discrimination because they refused to provide their services for the wedding ceremonies of same-sex couples. It’s happened so frequently that it’s ceased to even be surprising. But it’s such an egregious affront to individuals’ freedom that I think it’s worth highlighting every time.
The case I read about this morning involves a couple who refused to host a same-sex wedding on their farm in upstate New York. They’re hardly homophobes – they’ve employed openly gay and transgendered people on their farm – but they have a religious objection to same-sex marriage, so they declined when a lesbian couple approached them about hosting their wedding ceremony.
Surprise, surprise. The couple sued and won. Which brings me to two points that I think are worth mentioning. First, Andrea Peyser, reporting on the story in the New York Post, sums it up well when she says,
Readers know that I’ve come to support same-sex marriage. But I can’t understand why clergymen and -women are free in New York to opt out of joining in marriage homosexual couples, but the law gives not a lick of respect to non-ordained people of faith….
Robert and Cynthia Gifford are decent people being punished for acting on their faith. This kind of government bigotry should appeal to no one, whether he or she (or one of no gender) identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, androgynous . . . or even straight.
Second, I noticed something that seemed odd to me when I read about the fine the owners of the farm were ordered to pay.
The Giffords, who own the bucolic Liberty Ridge Farm in upstate New York, were ordered to pay a total of $13,000 — a $10,000 fine to the state and another $1,500 to each member of a lesbian couple to compensate them for “mental anguish.’’ All because the Giffords, devout Christians, refused to hold a same-sex wedding ceremony on the property on which they live, work and have raised a daughter, 17, and a son, 21.
Wait a minute. $1500 to each of the women and $10,000 to the state? Who exactly is the “victim” here, if there is one? Clearly the state of New York isn’t primarily concerned about the “mental anguish” of the women who had to hold their wedding elsewhere. This is about punishment for some perceived crime, not about compensating the victim. When the major financial beneficiary is the state, rather than the people who brought the suit, it seems clear to me that the whole case is mostly about the state using force to push a social agenda, rather than trying to protect the rights of its homosexual citizens. And that is absolutely not an appropriate role for government.