LYNDONVILLE, VT, August 24, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The price of following your conscience in Vermont is $30,000. That’s the amount a Roman Catholic family has agreed to pay over a disagreement about hosting a same-sex “wedding” reception at its family inn.
An employee for Jim and Mary O’Reilly, a devout Catholic couple, turned down the request of a lesbian couple from New York City to host their “wedding” reception, following a same-sex “marriage” at a Buddhist retreat in Vermont. Attorneys for the inn said that the employee had misrepresented the position of the O’Reillys, and that it was their policy simply to inform couples about their beliefs on marriage, while agreeing to serve anyone who wished it.
Although the family emphasized they “treat all people with respect and dignity,” and they serve and employ homosexuals, they said celebrating sexual immorality “goes against everything that we as Catholics believe.”
The ACLU sued the inn last July, and were joined by Vermont Human Rights Commission. The commission joined the suit despite ruling in 2005, in a separate discrimination case brought forward by a lesbian, that there were “no reasonable grounds to believe that Wildflower…illegally discriminated” against homosexuals in their policy.
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“It is unfortunate when a state agency teams up with the ACLU to harass and punish a private family business over its owners’ constitutionally protected thoughts and beliefs,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Byron Babione. “Legal attacks like this one are not pursuits for justice, but attempts to coerce and police private expression.”
The O’Reillys opted to settle the case, giving $10,000 to the commission and $20,000 to a trust run by the couple.
“Our beliefs haven’t changed, but we do have lives to live, a family to love, a business to grow, and a community to serve,” said Wildflower Inn owner Jim O’Reilly. “Small businesses like ours cannot match the limitless resources of the government and the ACLU.”
Kate Baker, who brought the case against the Inn, said, “We did not bring this lawsuit in order to punish the Wildflower Inn or to collect money.”
Robert Appel, executive director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission said, “This settlement makes clear that when you operate a public business in Vermont, you can’t discriminate.”
Although he believes he did nothing wrong, Jim O’Reilly noted, “Ongoing litigation like this can cripple any small business and the livelihood of its owners, so we’re relieved to put this ordeal behind us.”