Main | Thursday, August 23, 2012

VERMONT: Inn Loses Suit, Must Pay $30K For Turning Away Lesbian Couple

Vermont's Wildflower Inn has been fined $30,000 for turning away a lesbian couple that wanted to hold their wedding reception there. The couple was represented by the ACLU, who convinced the Vermont Human Rights Commission that the inn had violated state law on public accommodations. The losing Alliance Defense Fund denounces the decision:
“Every American should be free to live and do business consistent with their deeply held beliefs,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Byron Babione. “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. Legal attacks like this one are not pursuits for justice, but attempts to coerce and police private expression.”
Blogger VT Digger has more:
According to the settlement, the Wildflower Inn was acting in good faith and in compliance with a 2005 decision by the Vermont Human Rights Commission that said that while no public establishment may refuse to serve a customer based on sexual orientation, the inn could advise potential customers of the owners’ Catholic beliefs. Based on that decision, the Wildflower Inn’s stated policy was to ignore all calls and emails from same-sex couples hoping to host a wedding or reception at the inn. If confronted, their policy was to advise the couple that the owners did not believe in same-sex marriage, but would host the reception if they really wanted to.
ACLU-Vermont attorney Dan Barrett gets to the heart of the decision: "What this settlement makes clear is that you can’t discourage and get away with it. Discouragement or any unequal treatment of LGBT customers is [legally] the same as an outright refusal." The winning couple says they will donate the "largest chunk" of their settlement to the Trevor Project.

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