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Gifford v. Erwin

Description:  Cynthia and Robert Gifford live in a barn they built on their farm and occasionally hosted weddings on the first floor and the surrounding backyard area. Cynthia served as a wedding coordinator for those events and did everything but officiate the ceremony. On Sept. 25, 2012, Melisa McCarthy called Cynthia, inquiring about the use of the farm for her upcoming same-sex ceremony. Because of her Christian faith’s teachings on marriage, Cynthia politely made it clear to McCarthy that she and her husband don’t host and coordinate same-sex ceremonies but left open the invitation to visit the farm to consider it as a potential reception site. Instead, McCarthy and her partner filed a complaint with the Division of Human Rights. After the agency ruled that the Giffords were guilty of “sexual orientation discrimination,” it fined them $10,000 plus $3,000 in damages and ordered them to implement re-education training classes designed to contradict the couple’s religious beliefs about marriage.

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2016
The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton regarding upstate New York farm owners Robert and Cynthia Giffords’ decision not to appeal the ruling of a New York court in Gifford v. Erwin that punishes them for declining to coordinate same-sex weddings in their own backyard:

“Americans should be free to live and work peacefully according to their beliefs, especially in our own backyards. The government went after this couple’s constitutionally protected freedom and their ability to make a living simply for adhering to their faith on their own property. This kind of governmental coercion should disturb every freedom-loving American no matter where you stand on marriage. The court should have rejected this unnecessary and unjust intrusion on the Giffords’ basic civil rights. After much consideration, the Giffords have decided not to appeal the ruling and are evaluating how to best run Liberty Ridge Farm under a legal regime that disregards their convictions.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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Previous News Releases

Legal Documents

Response to initial complaint: McCarthy v. Liberty Ridge Farm
Administrative law judge's determination: McCarthy v. Liberty Ridge Farm
Answer to administrative law judge's determination: McCarthy v. Liberty Ridge Farm
Division of Human Rights final order: McCarthy v. Liberty Ridge Farm
Petition for judicial review: Gifford v. New York State Division of Human Rights

Related Resources

ABOUT Caleb Dalton

Caleb Dalton serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he plays a key role at the Center for Academic Freedom. Since joining ADF in 2013, Dalton has served on multiple teams representing private individuals and government entities to affirm the fundamental freedoms of speech and religious liberty. In 2017, he joined the Center for Academic Freedom where he has represented clients seeking to speak freely on campus without fear of unconstitutional government censorship. Dalton earned a J.D. at the Regent University School of Law, graduating cum laude. He is a member of the bar in Arizona, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; he is also admitted to practice before multiple federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.