PETITIONERS, WHO HELD CATERED EVENTS, INCLUDING WEDDINGS, AT THEIR FARM, COMMITTED AN UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICE WHEN THEY REFUSED TO ALLOW RESPONDENTS’ SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AT THE FARM.
The Third Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Peters, determined the State Division of Human Rights (SDHR) properly found petitioners (the Giffords) discriminated against respondents (the McCarthys) by refusing to hold the McCarthys’ same-sex marriage at the Giffords’ farm (Liberty Ridge). The Giffords held catered events on their farm, including weddings. The Third Department held the farm was “a place of public accommodation” within the meaning of the Human Rights Law (Executive law 290 ) and was therefore subject to the statutory prohibition of “unlawful discriminatory practice[s]” in “a place of public accommodation.” The federal and state constitutional arguments raised by the owners of the farm (free exercise of religion, free speech, compelled speech and expressive association) were discussed in detail and rejected. SDHR’s award of $1500 each to the respondents, and the imposition of a $10,000 civil penalty on the Giffords was upheld. With respect to the definition of “a place of public accommodation,” the court explained:
Executive Law § 292 (9) “defines ‘place of public accommodation, resort or amusement’ inclusively and illustratively, not specifically, and sets forth an extensive list of examples of places within the statute” … . Such term includes “establishments dealing with goods or services of any kind” and “any place where food is sold for consumption on the premises” (Executive Law § 292 ). Over the years, the statutory definition has been expanded repeatedly, “provid[ing] a clear indication that the Legislature used the phrase place of public accommodation ‘in the broad sense of providing conveniences and services to the public’ and that it intended that the definition of place of accommodation should be interpreted liberally” … .
Here, Liberty Ridge’s wedding facilities fall comfortably within the broad definition of “place of public accommodation.” It is undisputed that petitioners open Liberty Ridge to the public as a venue for wedding ceremonies and receptions and offer several wedding-related event services in connection therewith. Indeed, the only wedding-related service that Liberty Ridge does not provide is an officiant for the wedding ceremony. The couples who contract to wed at Liberty Ridge’s facilities are members of the general public who, like the McCarthys, may be attracted to the farm by its broadly disseminated advertisements and website. The fact that the wedding ceremonies occur on private property and pursuant to a written contract does not, as petitioners contend, remove Liberty Ridge’s facilities from the reach of the Human Rights Law; the critical factor is that the facilities are made available to the public at large… . Matter of Gifford v McCarthy, 2016 NY Slip Op 00230, 3rd Dept 1-14-16
LABOR LAW (SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON LABOR LAW 240 (1) CAUSE OF ACTION SUPPORTED BY NON-DEFECTIVE A-FRAME LADDER WHICH FELL OVER WITH PLAINTIFF HOLDING ON TO IT AFTER PLAINTIFF WAS JOLTED WITH ELECTRICITY)