A lesbian couple has settled a suit against a Catholic couple who refused to contract with the women to host their wedding reception at a resort owned by the Catholics. The lesbian couple claimed that they were victims of sexual orientation discrimination.
The Burlington Free Press reports the details of the settlement:
“The settlement calls for the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville to pay $10,000 to the Vermont Human Rights Commission as a civil penalty for violating Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, as well as $20,000 in a charitable trust to be disbursed by the couple, according to the Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.”
The owners of the Inn, Jim and Mary O’Reilly, will no longer host weddings there. In a statement, Jim O’Reilly said:
“The Wildflower Inn has always served — and will continue to serve — everyone in our community. But no one can force us to abandon our deeply held beliefs about marriage.”
The lawsuit was filed in July 2011 by the Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Kate and Ming Linsley of New York state.
In a statement at the time the lawsuit was filed, the O’Reillys said they could not “offer our services wholeheartedly to celebrate the marriage between same-sex couples because it goes against everything that we as Catholics believe in.”
They claimed that applying Vermont’ s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act–prohibits public accommodations from denying customers because of sexual orientation–would be a violation of their free speech and freedom of association rights.
The Free Press article carries reactions from both parties:
“In a statement Thursday, the O’Reillys said they agreed to the settlement ‘to end this ordeal and the threat that the litigation posed’ to the business.
“ ‘We did not bring this lawsuit in order to punish the Wildflower Inn or to collect money,’ said Kate Linsley, in a statement released by the ACLU. ‘We brought this lawsuit because we wanted people to know that what the Wildflower Inn did was illegal. We didn’t want to stay quiet and allow businesses to continue to think they can discriminate.’ ”
An article on LezGetReal.com notes that the Wildflower Inn was being used only as the reception location, not for the actual wedding ceremony itself:
“The Linsleys had planned on having their wedding ceremony at a Buddhist retreat near the inn. When Ming Linsley’s mother Channie Peters tried to book with the Inn, she was informed via email that the inn did not accept same-sex marriage receptions.”
LezGetReal.com also cited Ming Lingsley’s additional reaction to the settlement:
“We’re glad that the Wildflower Inn has recognized that the way we were treated was wrong and that no other family will have to experience what we did. All families should feel welcome at any resort that’s open to the public.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry