Wedding Venues Can’t Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples, New York State Agency Rules


The New York State Division of Human Rights has affirmed the state's Human Rights Law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the case of Melisa and Jennifer McCarthy, a lesbian couple whose 2012 request to wed at an Albany area farm and wedding venue was turned down after owners found out they were a same-sex couple.  

New York Civil Liberties Union, who represented the couple, released the following statement:

“Marriage should be a time of celebration, not discrimination,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “This ruling sets an important precedent protecting the rights of LGBT New Yorkers, and will help ensure that businesses understand New York law and treat all patrons with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Added Jennifer McCarthy:

“No one should have the happiest time of their life marred by discrimination. We hope this decision will protect all New Yorkers from having to go through the hurt that we experienced.”

Liberty Ridge, the wedding venue in question, was told to "cease and desist from discriminatory practices in public accommodations" and was ordered to pay the McCarthys $1,500 each and a fine of $10,000 to the state. The owners must also prove to the Division on Human Rights that they're conducting anti-discrimination training at their workplace. 


  1. max says

    I understand the principal of it all, but why would a couple want to be married in a place which they know discriminates? When my husband and I were planning our wedding, we looked only to places we know we’d be welcome. Seems more of a moral victory than a practical one.

  2. says

    @Max: When the couple approached the venue, obviously they didn’t know the owners were bigots (and lawbreakers). Why would they? Most businesses don’t advertise their prejudices. It’s doubtful they still want to be married there, but that’s beside the point.

    The point is NY has a right to demand that businesses comply with state law–and state law doesn’t give the religious a special pass to discriminate. The “principle of it all” matters; otherwise, why have non-discrimination laws at all?

  3. pete n sfo says

    What an irony that the place is called “Liberty Ridge.” It’s like “Alliance for Freedom,” “Defending America,” etc. All these ridiculous names that are really about hoodwinking the public & furthering their own bigotry.

  4. oncemorefeeling says

    Will we ever stop with the “why would you go there in the first place” nonsense?

    Customers are NEVER wrong to want to access a public accommodation and public accommodations are ALWAYS wrong to discriminate against their customers.

    THE END already!

  5. northalabama says

    watch out new york bakeries, photographers, and bed & breakfasts, we’re coming after you next.

    if there was an established effort by certain businesses to turn away christians, these same religious barbs would be hollering, from the rafters to which their toes cling, their freedoms were being violated. such hypocrites, you can’t have it both ways.

  6. RWG says

    @Northalabama: The difference is, religion is a protected class under Federal Law, so discriminating against a particular sect is illegal. We, the LGBT population, don’t have those protections. The Four Words need to be added to the Civil Rights Act, then we’ll be on equal footing with the religious bigots.

  7. Gigi says

    @MAX — To a certain extent I understand your position but businesses need to know that they ARE NOT CHURCHES. I don’t care who you are, or what your “deeply held religious beliefs” are. If you run a business, be prepared to follow the law. My husband and I tried to book a venue several years ago in Canada, and the owner of the venue was very happy to accommodate us until he found out we were a gay couple. The kicker? He’s gay himself! He said, “Oh no! No gay weddings here. I know how “the gays” get when they drink…” WTF?!?! Then when I told him how rude and insensitive his rejection was (all by e-mail) he said, “AFTER THAT HISSY FIT I’M GLAD I SAID NO!” I didn’t pursue the matter further, other than telling everyone I know about what happened, but I can understand why some would. We all deserve to be treated with respect. End of.

  8. WOLF says

    WTF are you talking about Timmy? I’m so sick of transphobic gays saying there’s no T in LGBT. Gender and sexuality are absolutely intertwined and if you don’t know that, you need to go back to school.

  9. says

    I get the people who say, “Why do you want to get married around people who discriminate you?,” but that’s what things like Yelp are for. Get in harsh jabs and make people think twice about getting married where you did and hurt their bottom line.

  10. Bernie says

    I like and support most of the comments on this…..and I would like to add that if and when this place goes out of business or business slows down because of this, they will blame the gay community!! Also, if you don’t want to serve all the public, then either volunteer or work in your church………. a business is a public accommodation….to serve the public….I wonder why the sin of being gay in the bible is a worse sin than murder, shoplifting, child abuse, cheating spouses, gamblers, etc that are also in the bible?!?!?!? Does these Christian venues sell to murderers, cheaters,etc!??!?!

  11. Mike H says

    After knowing each other and going together on and off for 14 years we just eloped to Provincetown MA. Reception to follow in our new home a year later!

  12. Rational says

    This place still holds receptions following weddings…just not the wedding it’s self? That’s the understanding I get by reading their website. Get married someplace else and they are, apparently, more than happy to take your money for the reception…such good Christian people. I don’t think I’d trust eating the food they cater at a Same Sex reception, I saw and read ‘The Help’ and I’d stay away from anything looking like it’s made with Chocolate…or lemonade for that matter.

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