LYNDONVILLE, Vermont, July 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced Tuesday that they are suing a Vermont inn on behalf of a lesbian couple, after the inn’s Christian owners refused to host the couple’s ‘wedding’ reception.
The Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, owned by Jim and Mary O’Reilly, has a policy against hosting receptions for homosexual ‘weddings’, so when Kate Baker and Ming Linsley of New York City approached them last fall, they were turned away.
The ACLU alleges that the O’Reillys’ policy violates Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which prohibits the denial of goods and services based on customers’ sexual orientation. The act contains exceptions for religious organizations and small inns with five or fewer rooms, but not larger establishments.
Nevertheless, the O’Reillys, who are devout Catholics, have stood their ground. “We do not … feel that we can offer our personal services wholeheartedly to celebrate the marriage between same sex couples because it goes against everything that we as Catholics believe in,” they wrote in a statement Tuesday.
“We have never refused rooms or dining or employment to gays or lesbians,” they continued. “Many of our guests have been same sex couples. We welcome and treat all people with respect and dignity.”
They said they themselves have never communicated with the couple and learned of the controversy it in the morning news. “Unfortunately, our Wedding Coordinator did not handle the couple’s request in the manner that it should have been,” they added.
The lesbian couple was able to find another establishment, but they say it was important to bring the suit based on principle. They claim that at least two other same-sex couples have been turned away from the inn as well.
Channie Peters, Linsley’s mother, had made the arrangements with the inn’s events manager, but when the manager learned the couple was homosexual, she sent her an e-mail saying they had to cancel.
“After our conversation, I checked with my Innkeepers and unfortunately due to their personal feelings, they do not host gay receptions at our facility,” the manager wrote, according to the lawsuit. “I am so sorry and want to stress it does not reflect my personal or professional views.”
Robert Appel, executive director of Vermont’s Human Rights Commission, told the Associated Press that the couple is to be congratulated for “challenging what appears on its face to be a plainly unlawful policy.”
Vermont legalized same-sex “marriage” in 2009 and has touted itself as a homosexual tourism destination.
Greg Johnson, a professor of law at Vermont Law School, told the New York Times that the case could be precedent-setting as other states legalize same-sex “marriage.”
Conscience rights of business owners and public officials have routinely been trampled wherever same-sex “marriage” is legalized.
Already in New York State, which legalized same-sex “marriage” on June 24th, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signaled that town clerks should resign if their consciences will not allow them to sign same-sex “marriage” licenses, and Nassau County’s district attorney has threatened criminal prosecution of any clerks that refuse to sign the licenses.