Stephen Tennes, an apple farmer in East Lansig, Michigan, is not being allowed to sell his fruit at a local farmer’s market. Why? Because he prohibited a gay couple to get married at his farm and then posted about it on Facebook.
How bout them apples?
Tennes’ farm, 22 miles away from East Lansing, is a popular place for couples to have their wedding. Well, straight couples that is. In December, Tennes announced that he would resume scheduling weddings at the orchard, while reserving the right to deny a request that would violate his Catholic beliefs.
“It remains our deeply held religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and Country Mill has the First Amendment Right to express and act upon its beliefs,” the post said.
Associated Press reports that Tennes wasn’t invited back to the market because vendors must follow its civil rights ordinance, which bars discrimination. He alleges that the city’s actions violate his rights to free speech and religion, so he is suing them.
Tennes’ suit asks the court to restore Country Mill Farms’ freedoms, stop East Lansing’s “discriminatory policy,” and award damages to the farmer.
“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.
“Our faith and beliefs on marriage and hosting weddings at our home and in our backyard of our farm have nothing to do with the city of East Lansing,” Tennes said at a press conference. “Nor does it have anything to do with the produce that we sell to the people that attend the farmers markets who are from all backgrounds and all beliefs.”
“The government shouldn’t treat some people worse than others simply because they don’t agree with their thoughts or their ideas,” said Stephen Tennes.
East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows said the city’s ordinance applies to Tennes not because of his individual beliefs or Facebook posts, but because of his “business decision” to exclude gay couples from having their wedding ceremonies at the farm.
“This is about them operating a business that discriminates against LGBT individuals and that’s a whole different issue,” Meadows said.
Republican State Representative Tom Barrett however supports the Tennes family. “I applaud their courage to bring this issue forward.,” he said in a statement. “Steve and Bridget did not ask for this battle but I am proud to stand with them as they fight for religious freedom and free speech.”