A fruit farmer in Michigan prevailed in his lawsuit late last month after he was denied a spot in a local farmer’s market because he did not allow same-sex wedding ceremonies on his property.
U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney of the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division, on August 21, found the city of East Lansing used an improper set of individual assessments to exclude Steve Tennes of Country Mills Farms from its local farmers market. Tennes rented a portion of his farm for weddings but did not allow same-sex ceremonies as he said they violated his religious beliefs. East Lansing said this policy violated its vendor guidelines and denied Tennes a permit.
Maloney had issued an injunction in the case, officially titled Country Mill Farms v. City of East Lansing, in 2017 allowing Tennes to participate in the farmers market while the case was adjudicated.
“The City’s decision to exclude Country Mill Farms from the 2017 East Lansing Farmer’s Market constituted a burden on Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs,” Maloney wrote in the ruling. “Plaintiffs were forced to choose between following their religious beliefs and a government benefit for which they were otherwise qualified.”
Tennes was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative group representing clients with cases involving the First Amendment and parental rights. The SPLC has accused ADF of being a hate group.
“The district court’s decision rightly protects Steve’s freedom to operate his business according to his convictions,” ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson said in a statement following the decision.
A spokesperson for East Lansing said the city was considering whether to appeal the decision.