Farmer Says Gay Marriage Views Cost Him Market Spot
A Michigan apple grower who posted on Facebook that he wouldn’t allow gay couples to get married at his farm filed a lawsuit against the city of East Lansing on Wednesday after he was shut out of an outdoor farmer’s market.
The city said Stephen Tennes wasn’t invited back to the market because vendors must follow its civil rights ordinance, which bars discrimination. Tennes alleges that the city’s actions violate his rights to free speech and religion.
Tennes’ farm, 22 miles away from East Lansing in Eaton County, is a popular place to have weddings. In a Facebook post in December, he said he believes in heterosexual marriage and reserves the right to reject weddings that conflict with his beliefs.
“If the government can shut down a family farmer just because of the religious views he expresses on Facebook … then no American is free,” said Tennes’ attorney, Kate Anderson.
East Lansing said in a statement that the farm is violating the city’s “long-standing ordinance that protects sexual orientation” and can’t sell fruit at the market.
Tennes filed a lawsuit in federal court with help from Washington-based Alliance Defending Freedom, which specializes in religious liberty cases. He wants a judge to order East Lansing to allow him back at the market and also stop the city from extending policies to businesses outside the city.