ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The owners of an upstate wedding venue who refused to host a lesbian wedding and were fined $13,000 for violating the state’s anti-discrimination law had their appeal rejected by a state court on Thursday.
Robert and Cynthia Gifford cited their conservative Christian beliefs in refusing to host the 2013 wedding of Melisa and Jennie McCarthy at Liberty Ridge Farm, north of Albany. They appealed a ruling from the state’s Division of Human Rights, asserting their rights to free speech and religious exercise.
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, in a 5-0 ruling, said the Giffords are free to express their religious beliefs but rejected their argument that their rights were being violated.
“The Giffords are free to adhere to and profess their religious beliefs that same-sex couples should not marry, but they must permit same-sex couples to marry on the premises if they choose to allow opposite-sex couples to do so,” Judge Karen Peters’ decision said.
The Giffords were represented by an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization that says “a thriving culture upholds the value of life, marriage, and religious freedom.”
The attorney, Caleb Dalton, said on the organization’s website that the court “should have rejected this unwarranted and unconstitutional government intrusion.” He said an appeal would be considered.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented the McCarthys, said the ruling affirms that all state residents deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The McCarthys married at another upstate farm.
Gay marriage became legal in New York on July 24, 2011. It became legal nationwide on June 26, 2015, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.