Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vermont Inn Refuses Service To Lesbian Couple

by Dick Mac

According to a complaint filed by the ACLU, the Wildflower Inn, of Lyndonville, Vermont, responded to a Request for Proposals (RFP) from the Vermont Convention Bureau for a wedding.

RFPs are commonly sent out when a person or company is looking to contract for an expensive project. Like a wedding, perhaps. RFPs allow every vendor in a group to place bids to win the contract.

Wildflower Inn responded to the RFP and began negotiations with Channie Peters, the mother of the bride. When the Meeting and Events Director learned that the wedding was for a lesbian couple she informed mother that " . . . due to their personal feelings, they do not host gay receptions . . ."

(To which I wondered aloud if they only host morose receptions.)

This is not a story of some activists searching for an evil business to discredit. This is the story of a mother hosting the wedding of her daughter and being told by a vendor who sought her business that, after all, they don't cater to people like her daughter.

I know that this can become a complicated story, so let's just condense it:

The family did not randomly select this venue, the Inn solicited the family's business via the Vermont Convention Bureau's RFP. The Inn contacted family with a very convincing pitch. The Inn said that they would be the perfect destination for the couple's wedding reception. The family accepted their proposal, and during planning, the mother of the bride corrected the statement "bride and groom" by explaining there would be "two brides." Minutes later, the Inn cancelled the deal. There is an electronic record of the crime. So, the Inn wasn't tricked or victimized; they made a business decision to pursue this family's money, then made a political choice to discriminate against them.

What is most egregious to me is that they told a Mother they did not cater to people like her daughter. What should have been a wonderful experience for this Mother was not. Why? Because the innkeepers don't like homosexuals.

I am certain that the Inn will become a cause celebre for people opposed to gay marriage and they will likely make more money than ever before when bigots from all over the Northeast flock to their defense, and good for them: this is America and as long as you obey the law you are allowed to make as much money as you like. Therein lies the rub: they've broken the law.

The family is not seeking huge monetary damages, so the Inn will not be financially crippled by this. The family is bringing this lawsuit because they were hurt by these people. A mother was insulted and the couple was stigmatized, and in America we don't do that. Even Jesus and his close friends the Founding Fathers believed in equal protection under the law.

As horrible as this must be for the family, I do not doubt that this has to be hard for the innkeepers, their friends, and supporters; but they have made a bad decision, and I have not seen an outpouring of contrition. In fact, they have remained completely silent. If that is at their lawyer's advice, they should seek alternative counsel and start fixing this immediately. From where I sit, however, I think it's true that they don't want to host lesbian weddings. This is illegal, immoral, and insulting to all thinking people.

If Wildflower Inn wants to be a private club for heterosexuals, they should do so; but as long as they are selling public accommodations, they need to abide by the laws of the state in which they are incorporated.

PDF of Complaint filed with the courts

VT Digger article

ACLU Article

No comments: