Couple Opens Up About Being Banned From Farmer's Market Over Same-Sex Marriage Views
Last August, a farming family was banned from the East Lansing Farmer's Market because they had the temerity to post their position on same-sex marriage on Facebook. The two gladly served and associated with LGBT people, but they refused to host a same-sex wedding on their farm. For this reason, East Lansing overreached its legal boundaries to exclude them.
"This isn't just about our ability to sell at the farmers market, it's really about every American's right to be able to make a living and not have to worry about the fear of being punished by the government," Steve Tennes, owner of Country Mill, told The Daily Signal in a video interview.
Tennes briefly explained the case. "For the last seven years, our family farm has packed up our apples and blueberries and peaches and driven them 22 miles to the city of East Lansing, where we've served people of all backgrounds and beliefs at their city-run farmers market." But last year, the city told them never to come back.
"We had a person on our Facebook page ask us what our beliefs were about marriage," the farmer explained. "We gave an honest answer to a very complex question."
Here is the balanced answer they gave to the question (emphasis added).
Thank you for inquiring about our family farm. We do host weddings on our farm. We have had same sex couples inquire about getting married at our orchard. Due to our personal religious beliefs, we do not participate in the celebration of a same sex union. We have and will continue to respectfully direct wedding inquiries to another mid-Michigan orchard that has more experience in hosting same sex weddings. We welcome all customers for our other activities and products on the farm. We have friends, family and business associates in the LGBT community. We respect other people’s beliefs and we can only hope that others will respect ours. We have always tried our best to be respectful in this area. Thank you for your understanding.
Not only did Country Mill's response emphasize respect for LGBT people, but it also emphasized that when same-sex couples came to the farm inquiring about getting married there, the family had a clear policy of directing the couple to another specific venue.
Nevertheless, the city of East Lansing asked the Tenneses never to sell at their farmer's market again, specifically citing the Facebook post as the reason to exclude Country Mill from the city's market. The farming family decided to take the city to court.