Steve Tennes, a farmer who was barred from a Michigan farmers' market for not allowing gay couples to marry at his apple orchard, is now suing the city with the help of the same nonprofit that represented Masterpiece Cakeshop.
East Lansing officials changed the city-run market's rules to require vendors to comply with the city's LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinance. This resulted in Tennes losing his permit to sell produce, as he won't let same-sex couples marry at the Country Mill, his orchard in nearby Charlotte, which hosts weddings and other events, the Associated Press reports.
Conservative Christian nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, which recently represented Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips at the Supreme Court, has come on board as Tennes's counsel, free of charge.
"Our family has faithfully served everyone in our community from all different backgrounds and beliefs," Tennes said in a statement Wednesday. "It is our religious beliefs that teach us to love all of our neighbors and treat them with dignity and respect."
A federal judge ruled that by punishing Tennes for discriminating against same-sex couples, the city violated his religious and free speech rights, and the judge ordered that he be allowed to return.
However, East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows is pushing back, noting the ruling only forced the market to let Tennes sell his organic apples in the 2017 season.
"This doesn't have anything to do with Mr. Tennes," Meadows said, asserting that the decision to bar him was about his corporate practices rather than his religious beliefs, "This has to do with the business."
Alliance Defending Freedom achieved a victory for Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop at the Supreme Court this week. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission had found that Phillips violated the state's antidiscrimination law by refusing to provide a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, and he cited religious objections in doing so. The high court Monday reversed the commission's decision, ruling that it had nor given appropriate consideration to Phillips's religious beliefs.