Friday, June 02, 2017

Farmers' Market's Exclusion of Vendor Over Same-Sex Marriages Views Is Challenged

A suit was filed on Wednesday in a Michigan federal district court challenging on 1st and 14th Amendment grounds the City of East Lansing's Vendor Guidelines for its Farmers' Market. The complaint (full text) in Country Mill Farms, LLC v. City of East Lansing, (WD MI, filed 5/31/2017), claims that the city modified its Guidelines to target Country Mill Farms because its owner, Stephen Tennes, shared on Facebook his Catholic belief opposing same-sex marriage.  Tennes posted that while his Farm hosts weddings, it only hosts those that conform to his belief that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman. Following this post, city officials unsuccessfully attempted to pressure Country Mill to end its participation in the Farmer's Market.  When that was unsuccessful, the city changed its Guidelines to require all Farmers' Market participants to abide by the city's Civil Rights Ordinance both while at the market and as a general business practice.  The complaint also alleges that this is an attempt by the city to extend the reach of its ordinances beyond its borders in violation of the Michigan Home Rule City Act.  ADF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.