A Michigan farmer is suing East Lansing after being kicked out of the city’s markets for refusing to host same-sex weddings.
Steve Tennes and his family have been told that they can’t sell their crops at the local farmers market.
Tennes, owner of Country Mill Farms in Charlotte, claims his farm has been targeted because of his family’s religious beliefs, the Lansing State Journal reported.
“Our faith and beliefs on marriage and hosting weddings at our home and in our backyard of our farm have nothing to do with the city of East Lansing,” he said.
“Nor does it have anything to do with the produce that we sell to the people that attend the farmers markets who are from all backgrounds and all beliefs.”
The city says farmers, even those not located within East Lansing, have to agree with its non-discrimination ordinance in order to participate in the market.
“I think it’s a very strong principle that you should not be discriminating against somebody elsewhere and then come here and want to participate in our market,” East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas told NBC.
The situation started last August, when someone inquired on Country Mill’s Facebook page whether they hosted gay weddings at the farm.
Mr Tennes said no, explaining that his Catholic family believes marriage should be between one man and one woman.
“One of the reasons my wife and I both volunteered to go serve our country in the military was because freedom of religion, freedom of speech, is dear to our hearts.”
He said he talks to his five children about bullying all the time, and that’s what he believes the city is doing to their family.
“We’re standing up, not just for us, but for everyone.”
East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows said the farm’s exclusion was based on the Tennes family’s “business decision” to exclude same-sex weddings.
“This is about them operating a business that discriminates against LGBT individuals and that’s a whole different issue,” he said.
Mr Tennes’ lawsuit is asking for damages due to loss of business and demands East Lansing stop its “discriminatory policy”.
“All Steve wants to do is sell his food to anyone who wants to buy it, but the city isn’t letting him,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Kate Anderson.
“People of faith, like the Tennes family, should be free to live and work according to their deeply held beliefs without fear of losing their livelihood.
“If the government can shut down a family farmer just because of the religious views he expresses on Facebook — by denying him a licence to do business and serve fresh produce to all people — then no American is free,” she said.