In September 2012, a same-sex couple attempted to book their wedding at Liberty Ridge Farms—a rustic event space in upstate New York. The farm’s owners refused to rent the venue to the couple, saying that same-sex marriages are “not what we wanted to have on the farm.” The couple filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights, alleging that the owners of the venue illegally discriminated against them based on their sexual orientation.
The human rights division concluded that the farm had violated New York law and ordered it to stop discriminating against same-sex couples. The farm appealed this ruling, arguing that enforcing the antidiscrimination law against them would violate the New York and U.S. Constitutions, including the First Amendment.
We filed an amicus brief in support of the same-sex couple in July 2015. Our brief argued that the First Amendment does not allow public accommodations to violate civil rights laws, even if the discrimination is motivated by religion.
In January 2016, the New York appellate court affirmed the human rights division's decision, concluding that the First Amendment does not provide a right to discriminate against same-sex couples in places of public accommodation.