Thursday, December 19, 2019

Another Ruling On Business Refusal To Serve Same-Sex Weddings

In Country Mills Farms, LLC v. City of East Lansing, (WD MI, Dec. 18, 2019), a Michigan federal district court refused to grant summary judgment to either side on most of plaintiff's claims growing out of plaintiff's refusal rent his farm venue for same-sex wedding ceremonies. That refusal led to plaintiff being excluded from participating in the city's farmer's market, The court summarized:
Plaintiffs used Facebook to announce both their religious beliefs and their business practices. The City reacted to the Facebook post, culminating in the denial of Country Mill’s application to participate in the East Lansing Farm’s Market. The parties disagree whether City’s actions were because of Plaintiffs’ statement about their religious beliefs or whether the City’s actions were because of Plaintiffs’ statement about their business practices.  Because the record contains evidence from which the finder of fact could conclude that the City reacted to Plaintiffs’ statements about their religious beliefs, the cross motions for summary judgment must be denied for many of the claims. The trier of fact must decide what the City’s motivation was.
The court, however, did hold that a portion of the city's non-discrimination ordinance is overbroad.  The court also dealt at length with plaintiff's free exercise claims. In part, the court rejected  plaintiff's argument that the Supreme Court's Trinity Lutheran decision precludes the city from denying him a public benefit because of his religious belief, saying: "the Trinity Lutheran opinion does not clearly extend beyond religious institutions "