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Vermont Inn Nixes Lesbian Couple’s Gay Marriage Reception

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No gays at the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, Vermont!

A lesbian couple is suing a Vermont resort, accusing them of violating the state’s anti-discrimination law for refusing to allow them to have their gay marriage reception on site.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed by the ACLU on behalf of Kate Barker and Ming Linsley, the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, VT has a “no gay reception” policy.

The lawsuit also alleges that at least two other same-sex couples were refused service by the owner because of their sexual orientation.

While many anti-gay activists are sure to use this as a reason why gay rights should not be legally codified – “business owners should not be forced to serve people they don’t want to” – this is a prime example of how important it is to have a federal anti-discrimination law for sexual orientation;  in 29 states, this sort of discrimination is legal.

And yet Vermont has been a pioneer in gay rights, recently passing gay marriage in 2009 and marketing heavily to the gay community. It is known as a safe and accepting destination for all.

“When the Wildflower Inn told us last fall that they don’t host gay receptions, we were obviously saddened and shocked,” said plaintiff Baker. “It was frustrating to be treated like lesser than the rest of the society, and we were also surprised that it happened in Vermont.”

The inn’s owners, Jim and Mary O’Reilly, have responded to the lawsuit saying that they are devout Catholics who do not believe in gay marriage. They are strict believers in “traditional marriage,” saying:

We have never refused rooms or dining or employment to gays or lesbians. Many of our guests have been same-sex couples. We welcome and treat all people with respect and dignity. We do not however, 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.

So apparently they will take money from LGBT guests, but will not allow them to celebrate their own most sacred union.

The Wildflower Inn, after being one of 10 Vermont properties to respond to a request for a reception quote and upon discovering that this was a gay wedding, responded with an email: “I have bad news.”

“After our conversation, I checked with my Innkeepers and unfortunately due to their personal feelings, they do not host gay receptions at our facility. I am so sorry and want to stress it does not reflect my personal or professional views,” the email from the inn’s event coordinator said.

Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act bars public accommodations from denying services to people based on sexual orientation.

The lawyer for the ACLU, Joshua Block, says that this is “not a one-time misunderstanding. This is a discrimination case. It would be no different if you owned a store and said we don’t want to sell clothes to you or give you food or any other public accommodation. The fact that it’s occurring in a new context shouldn’t affect the way we think about it.”

Props to these ladies for stepping up for their rights. And here’s to another example of how non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation protect the LGBT community.

  • I don’t know for sure how I feel about this. If it were a religious organization, I’d probably say, let them have their messed up views and just avoid them. I wonder if they’d get away with refusing services to an inter-racial couple that wanted to engage them.  I suspect it just wouldn’t fly.  I also feel that if they’re going to discriminate for this type of service they should be upfront about their feelings with all their guests.  I sure wouldn’t feel comfortable staying at a bed and breakfast which refuses services to our community.  I understand that the services sought are different, but if you disapprove enough to not allow us to marry there, I don’t want to support your business in any capacity.  Part of me wonders if a B&B run by a gay/lesbian couple would get away with refusing service to straight couples wanting to use their facilities for their wedding.

  • VTCats

    First of all, the innkeepers do not refuse services to your community.  In fact, they not only welcome members, but also employ them.  As for the article’s comment alluding that the in has no problem taking the GLBT community’s money, but will not let them celebrate their “marriage” does not make sense . . . when you consider that the inn turned down $30,000+ revenue from it.  Alas, they put their religious principles (Catholic) above money.  Let me ask you this, should the Inn be forced to hold a dinner celebration for the KKK?  After all, that organization has the right to public assembly.  Look, there are 100,000s of inns across the country that welcome and support gay marriages, why bother with the people that do not believe in it?  Should a photographer be forced to do shoots for a gay marriage?  Believe it or not, it is still NOT legal to persecute Americans who stand up for their religious beliefs.  Again, the inn does not turn gays away, they just will not accept offering services that run contrary to their centuries long belief system.  I live down the road from the inn and from conversations that I have heard, the innkeepers are ready to forgo doing ALL wedding (at great financial cost) rather than compromise their principles.  Hooray for them . . . as a matter of fact, I think I’ll head on over there for dinner tonight in support of their brave stance.

  • Ashlei Kennybrew

    I don’t feel about them refusing to celebrate & condone a gay marriage on their own property. Saying always says if you are not in favor of having gay marriage dont have one! & I think that applies to going one and attending the reception. That should also include not taking supporting gay marriage via venue, food, minister, ect. Is what they are doing fair? no! but they do not specifically discriminate on basis of sex, because they do employ gays & gives gays rooms. The fact they are willing to refuse a large sum of money in order to uphold their believes i think should be commended. Not everyone believes in the same equalities, but the fact that in any other gay service they do not refuse, is commendable. They are letting their gay patrons and employees live their lives and do what they want without vocal judgement. Hell some gay people I know dont support gay marriage, because they it as being a bad copy of the hetero-normative culture. Some things just need to be let go…These poor people are running an inn out of their home & you want to sue them??? Over a wedding reception that can be done anywhere….hell they will probably let you have the honeymoon there just no nuptials. Respect their household and their business.

  • Fabian Diaz

    -What about a gay hostel that refuses services to women, both lesbian and hetero women and hetero couples but welcomes hetero men travelling alone, as well as welcoming gays both travelling alone and with their boyfriends ?

    Such a hostel exists in my city…

  • Fabian Diaz

    In order for “gay friendly” commercial ventures to be profitable and offer a plus…it is a good thing that some other companys refuse service to gays.

    So, I think that it is good for gay friendly inns or party parlors that those catholics are refusing to gain lesian business

    Better to hire a gay friendly inn or hotel and hire their services, and not the services of those at the mentioned catholic inn

  • chuck607

    My thought is, would I really want my wedding reception in a place that doesn’t welcome me?  I am gay, and married my husband 3 1/2 years ago (after being together for 13 years and waiting for a state to allow us to marry without having to become state citizens).  I carefully chose our reception site based on how enthusiastically they would support us, since having a supportive venue makes a huge difference in the quality of service you get.  I don’t think it’s a nice or a Christian thing they’re doing, turning away anyone, but that’s got to be on their conscience.
    I personally will avoid this place when I visit Vermont, and would recommend other gays and lesbians do the same.  I would not want to offend them, and their views certainly offend me.

  • Wayne Daubney

    When you are in business  and providing services to the public you should not be allowed to discriminate. As they would provide the same services that this lesbian couple requested; to a heterosexual couple it is discrimination pure and simple.