Gifford v. McCarthy: What Do Agritourism Operations Need to Know About Anti-Discrimination Statutes

Updated: Jul 2, 2020


Aerial shot of Maryland Chapel during winter (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).
Aerial shot of Maryland Chapel during winter (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

This post should not be construed as legal advice.


If you run an agritourism operation, you have a lot of legal issues to consider. What happens if someone is injured while on your farm? What happens if someone gets sick eating food from a concession area? The list can go on and on. Something that may not be on a lot of your minds is how marriage equality laws and anti-discrimination laws impact your agritourism operation, especially if you operate as a venue for weddings. These can have a huge impact on your farm.

In Gifford v. McCarthy, the New York Appellate Division upheld damages and a civil fine assessed against the Giffords for refusing to rent the wedding facility on their farm for McCarthy’s same-sex wedding.


Background

The background is pretty straightforward. The Giffords operate a 100-acre farm in New York that harvests and sells crops to the public and rents a portion of the farm to the public as a venue for weddings, receptions, and other events. The Giffords’ farm is not a private club, non-profit, or religious entity (this will be important later on).


Photo of the actual Liberty Ridge Farm, photo from libertyridgefarmny.com
Photo of the actual Liberty Ridge Farm, photo from libertyridgefarmny.com

McCarthy contacted the Giffords in 2011 about using the Giffords’ farm