Vermont Inn Owners Claim Free Speech and Freedom of Association in Response to Lawsuit Brought by SS Couple


The Associated Press:

The owners of an inn that refused to host a same-sex wedding reception say they have no policy to discriminate against gay couples.

"We have never refused rooms or dining or employment to gays or lesbians," they said in a statement released in response to media inquiries. "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."

In their first court filing to answer the suit, the inn's owners insisted that applying Vermont's Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act would violate their right to free speech and freedom of association by forcing them to hold "expressive events."

... The ACLU and [Kate] Baker denounced it.

"The Wildflower Inn owners do not deny that they refused to host Kate and Ming's wedding reception," said Allen Gilbert, executive director of the ACLU chapter. "Instead, they continue to claim a right to discriminate against the couple, which is in violation of Vermont law. We are confident that the owners' claim that they have a First Amendment right to discriminate will be found meritless by the courts."