Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Judge Orders Michigan City to Accept Farmer’s Market Vendor

Written by Don Byrd

I posted this summer about a federal lawsuit brought by a business owner challenging East Lansing, Michigan’s rejection of his application to be a vendor at the Farmer’s Market. The city denied Stephen Tennes’ application because he refuses to host same-sex weddings on his Charlotte, Michigan farm, despite hosting other weddings there. Vendor guidelines for the Farmer’s Market require businesses to comply with East Lansing’s nondiscrimination ordinance in their general practice.

In a ruling Friday, the trial court judge in the case agreed with Tennes’ argument that the application denial unconstitutionally targeted his religion and granted his request for an injunction allowing him access to the market as a vendor. The judge pointed to the fact that the vendor guidelines the city relied on had been changed after officials became aware of Tennes’ refusal to host same-sex weddings.

Here is an excerpt from the Order:

The context in which the Vendor Guidelines were amended and then applied to Country Mill supports Plaintiffs’ claim that their religious beliefs or their religiously-motivated conduct was the target of the City’s actions….

A factfinder could infer that the change in the Vendor Guidelines was motivated by Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs or their religiously-motivated conduct. And, the City’s hostility to Plaintiffs’ religion or religious conduct was then manifested when the City used its facially neutral and generally applicable ordinance to deny Plaintiffs’ Vendor Application.

For more, see the Detroit Free Press report here.


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