MONTPELIER, Vt. — Two New York women and a Vermont country inn have settled a lawsuit that accused the business of refusing to host the couple's wedding reception.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the Vermont Human Rights Commission and to place $20,000 in a charitable trust.
Under the settlement, the inn also agreed it would no longer host weddings and their receptions. The innkeepers' lawyer, Jim Campbell, said they had decided previously to end that part of their business.
"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," said Ming Linsley in a statement released by the ACLU. "Although we found a different location and had a beautiful day, all families should feel welcome at any resort that's open to the public."
The ACLU said Ming Linsley and Kate Linsley contacted the civil rights organization after Ming's mother was told by the inn's events manager that the inn didn't host "gay receptions" because of the innkeepers' "personal feelings."
But Campbell, a lawyer for innkeepers Jim and Mary O'Reilly, said Thursday the inn was willing to host same-sex wedding receptions, despite the O'Reillys' opposition to same-sex marriage, based on their Catholic faith. Campbell, who works with the Alliance Defending Freedom, said an employee was acting without the owners' permission when she emailed Ming Linsley's mother, rejecting the request.
"A former Wildflower employee sparked the lawsuit when she falsely claimed that the inn would not allow a same-sex reception," the alliance said in a statement. "The inn's actual business practice, which the Vermont Human Rights Commission approved in 2005, was to honestly disclose its owners' religious convictions to potential customers while agreeing to serve everyone in accordance with the law."
Robert Appel, the commission's executive director, said that in the Linsley case and in a 2005 case, the innkeepers said they would host same-sex wedding receptions, but expressed their opposition to same-sex marriages.
He said that in the 2005 case, the commission found that the inn had not illegally discriminated against the couple. But the commission decided to join the ACLU in its lawsuit last year.
Vermont was the first state to pass a law allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions in 2000. It enacted gay marriage in 2009.
Earlier on HuffPost:
An Iowa lesbian couple might have hoped to find a wedding cake that was both delicate and sweet, but they say <a href="http://washingtonexaminer.com/news/2011/11/baker-denies-wedding-cake-same-sex-couple" target="_hplink">their experience with a Des Moines-based baker</a> left behind a sour taste. As KCCI-TV<a href="http://www.kcci.com/news/29753206/detail.html" target="_hplink"> is reporting</a>, the owner of Victoria's Cake Cottage refused to bake a cake for Trina Vodraska and Janelle Sievers, who are planning a June wedding, because she is Christian. Victoria Childress, who runs her bakery from home, says it's her right as a business owner to turn away customers."I said, 'I'll tell you I'm a Christian, and I do have convictions.' And I said, 'I'm sorry to tell you, but I'm not going to be able to do your cake," Childress, who met the couple during a taste-testing appointment, said. "I didn't do the cake because of my convictions for their lifestyle. It is my right, and it's not to discriminate against them. It's not so much to do with them, it's to do with me and my walk with God and what I will answer [to] Him for."
A Phoenix-based lesbian couple cried foul after <a href="http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2012/02/28/20120228phoenix-sheraton-reach-out-ousted-lesbian-couple.html" target="_hplink">being told to "get a room" by a hotel restaurant manager</a> during a romantic dinner. <em>The Arizona Republic</em> says Kenyata White and Aeimee Diaz, both 38, chose to celebrate their two-year anniversary at the District American Kitchen and Wine Bar, located inside the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, on Sunday because they met there. "My partner and I were reminiscing...in one of the tall booths," White told the paper. "I had my arm around her neck, and she had her hand around my waist. I gave her a hug for about a minute, pulled myself away to give her a quick kiss, and then we continued talking." White told AZ Family that <a href="http://www.azfamily.com/news/A-Lesbian-couple-is-kicked-out-of-a-Downtown-hotel-after-sharing-a-kiss-140801993.html" target="_hplink">she and Diaz were then approached</a> by a restaurant manager, who "came up to us and said we should get a room. That our behavior was inappropriate and we should leave the establishment."
Rose Marie Belforti, the town clerk in Ledyard, N.Y., drew national attention after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The town's government is behind Belforti, saying it cannot force her to issue licenses.
A Florida-based lesbian couple said they were humiliated by their driver's license application "nightmare" after the Pinellas County DMV rejected their name change request after an hour-long wait.
The owner of a new gay bar on Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood said he was refused service because a printing company thinks homosexuality is wrong. The printing company's owner argued he didn't approve of the artwork on the promotional material.
Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, Vermont after the proprietors <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-alexander/a-change-is-gonna-come_1_b_1079932.html" target="_hplink">refused to host</a> Katherine Baker and Ming-Lien Linsley's same-sex wedding reception. As ABC <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/US/vermont-inn-sued-refusal-host-gay-couples-wedding/story?id=14110076#.TsFfOoBPkqU" target="_hplink">is reporting</a>, the inn updated its website shortly thereafter to announce it is "no longer hosting weddings or special events."
In August, Alix Genter, a lesbian bride-to-be, claimed to have been denied service at Here Comes the Bride in Somers Point, N.J., after the salon's manager said she didn't want to be associated with the pending "illegal action," <a href="http://articles.philly.com/2011-08-18/news/29900898_1_bridal-shop-dresses-gay-marriage" target="_hplink">according to the</a><em> Philadelphia Daily News</em>.