Thursday, July 21, 2011
ACLU sues Vermont Catholic innkeepers who refused lesbian wedding reception
Kate Baker and Ming Linsley filed the suit on Tuesday in Vermont Superior Court, accusing the Wildflower Inn of Lyndonville of abruptly turning them away after learning they are lesbians.
They claim the inn violated Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which prohibits inns, hotels, motels and other establishments with five or more rooms from turning away patrons based on sexual orientation. The law makes an exemption for religious organizations.
Twenty-one other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws. Greg Johnson, a law professor at Vermont Law School, said the suit could set a precedent as more states legalize same-sex marriage. Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, all of which protect gay men and lesbians in their public-accommodations laws.
“I think this case could set an important precedent not only for Vermont but for other states with marriage equality,” Professor Johnson said, noting that lawsuits like this are rare.
The Associated Press describes Jim and Mary O’Reilly, who own the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, as “devout Catholics.”
“We have never refused rooms or dining or employment to gays or lesbians,” the O’Reillys said in a statement. “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.”
at 3:37 PM