ALBANY, NY — Cynthia and Robert Gifford live in a barn they built on their Liberty Ridge Farm and have occasionally hosted weddings on the first floor and the surrounding backyard area, Alliance Defending Freedom reports. Cynthia serves as a wedding coordinator for those events and does everything but officiate the ceremony.
On Sept. 25, 2012, Melisa McCarthy called Cynthia, inquiring about the use of the farm for her upcoming same-sex ceremony. Because of her Christian faith’s teachings on marriage, Cynthia politely made it clear to McCarthy that she and her husband don’t host and coordinate same-sex ceremonies but left open the invitation to visit the farm to consider it as a potential reception site.
Instead, McCarthy and her partner filed a complaint with the Division of Human Rights. After the agency ruled that the Giffords were guilty of “sexual orientation discrimination,” it fined them $10,000 plus $3,000 in damages and ordered them to implement re-education training classes designed to contradict the couple’s religious beliefs about marriage.
“All Americans should be free to live and work according to their beliefs, especially in their own backyards,” said Dalton. “The government is coming after both this couple’s freedom and their ability to make a living simply for adhering to their faith on their own property.”
ADF attorneys argue that the government did not consider the Giffords’ constitutionally protected freedoms and religious beliefs. During the proceedings, neither the administrative law judge nor the Division of Human Rights addressed the Giffords’ First Amendment rights.
“The Giffords welcome all people to the farm, but not all messages or events,” explained Trainor, one of more than 2,600 private attorneys allied with ADF. “The Constitution guarantees that the Giffords may decline to help communicate messages that conflict with their core beliefs about marriage.”
As the opening brief filed on appeal in Gifford v. Erwin stated, “In this case, the New York State Division of Human Rights…, in the name of human rights, has mandated religious discrimination by requiring a family to host and participate in a marriage ceremony that violates their faith, and by imposing a heavy fine on them because they are unwilling to do so. New York law does not require this result, and in fact, the state and federal Constitutions forbid it.”