"Coercive Big Government Run Amok"

National Organization for Marriage

Dear Marriage Supporter,

"This is coercive big government run amok."

That is the phrase The Daily Signal has used to describe a recent bit of news from New York state which represents only the latest act of bullying and intimidation by the same-sex marriage lobby against those of us who refuse to step in line with their radical ideology.

This time, the victims of this discriminatory and bigoted targeting are a couple who rent out their family farm for wedding receptions, but who respectfully declined renting to a lesbian couple because they could not in sound conscience participate in such an event.

To the Orwellian New York Human Rights Commission, however, this kind of conscientious dissent is ungoodthink. The farm owners, Cynthia and Robert Gifford, are being fined $13,000.00 for this malfeasance: $10,000 in civil damages to the State of New York and $1,500 to each of the two women of the couple denied services, for the "mental anguish" they have supposedly suffered.

But the damage of this terrible legal ruling goes beyond the pecuniary penalties against the Giffords themselves. In fact, they are only the chief victims of this travesty of justice. The wider implications are for you, and I, and future generations of Americans who suddenly see one more fundamental right—the right of conscience—being eroded more and more under the tidal wave of the marriage redefinition ideology.

Not the Onion

Sometimes news is so absurd that when you post it on Facebook or Twitter, you need to include the caveat that it is "not the Onion"—referring to the famous parody humor website.

As I read through the decision from the New York Human Rights Commission in the case of the Giffords, I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t parody.

For instance, in the section called "Findings of Fact", the document details the only recorded interaction between the Giffords and the female couple that wanted to rent the farm for their 'wedding.’ It reads as follows (the numbers are part of the ordered list of "facts" found by the court):

59. When Complaintants found the [Farm’s] website, they felt "very grateful and very excited" as if "this was meant to happen." [...]

60. Complaintants first attempted to contact [the Farm] about renting the wedding venue spaces electronically. Complaintants then left a phone message. [...]

62. In September 2013, Melissa McCarthy [one of the 'brides’] and Cynthia Gifford spoke by telephone. Jennifer McCarthy listened in on the phone. [...]

66. After being invited to visit [the Farm], Melisa McCarthy referred to her fiancé as "she" when discussing making an appointment to visit, and stated that "she works until 5:30." [...]

67. Upon hearing Melisa McCarthy refer to her finance [sic] as "she," Cynthia Gifford said there was "a little bit of a problem" because "we do not hold same-sex marriages here at the barn." [...]

70. Melisa McCarthy... asked Cynthia Gifford the reason for not allowing same-sex marriages. [...]

71. Cynthia Gifford responded that the reason for the policy was that "it’s a decision that my husband and I have made that that’s not what we wanted to have on the farm." [...]

72. Melisa McCarthy ended the phone call with Cynthia Gifford by stating that learning of the policy was "very disappointing" and that Complaintants "won’t take up anymore of your time." [...]

Apparently, Melisa McCarthy was simply being quaint when she said she and Jennifer wouldn’t be taking up any more of the Giffords’ time, because of course they ended up hauling the Farm owners into court.

But this is the extent of the interaction between the Giffords and the two women who wanted to 'marry’ at the farm. This is the basis of finding that $1,500 worth of "mental anguish" penalties were due to be paid to each of the complaintants!

I wish I could say the near-parody of the piece ends there, but it gets even worse. While the monetary damages are perhaps the most egregious penalties being imposed against the Giffords, they aren’t the most ridiculous penalties—nor the most invasive and insidious.

The judge also ruled that:

Within sixty (60) days... [the Giffords] shall prominently post in [their] place of business, where members of the public are likely to view it, a copy of the [New York Human Rights] Division’s poster...;

[The Giffords] shall establish in [their] place of business both anti-discrimination training and procedures... [and] shall provide proof of the aforementioned to the Division upon written demand... [emphasis added].

So, not only do the Giffords need to establish a kind of "re-education" regimen in their place of business (which is also their home, by the way), but they also need to hang on the wall a poster that reads in a big red box, in all capitals:


It’s like Hawthorne’s Scarlett Letter or something else out of dystopian fiction!

How would you like a poster like that hanging on the wall at your wedding reception? When you went to visit the venue and you saw that, wouldn’t you wonder what kind of place this was that has been forced to hang such a thing on its wall?

This is Only the Tip of the Spear

Those who clamor for the redefinition of marriage talk a lot about the damaging effect of stigma—but it is becoming increasingly clear that that is precisely the treatment they have in mind for anyone who dares disagree with their radical agenda.

They want to stigmatize them, publicly shame them, label them "bigots" and "haters"—yes, even to the extent of hanging public notices on the walls of their workplaces to identify them as such!

Wedding professionals are only the tip of the spear. What has happened to the Giffords in New York is a direct consequence of that state’s political act to redefine marriage, making a romantic attachment between adults of the same sex the legal equivalent of marriage between a man and a woman, something that has helped form civilizations since the dawn of time.

It used to be that same-sex 'marriage’ advocates would ask, "What does the gay marriage down the block have to do with your marriage?" They suggested Americans adopt a kind of laissez-faire attitude that effectively downplayed the consequences to come. Now that marriage has been redefined, we can plainly see those consequences, however... and they are not just to those in the wedding industry.

If same-sex 'marriage’ advocates were to ever succeed in redefining marriage nationwide, the consequences would be felt by everyone. We are already seeing religious groups’ tax exemptions challenged, charities such as adoption agencies forced to abandon their mission or sacrifice their beliefs, and family-owned businesses being compelled to provide services that conflict with their values or else get out of business altogether... and on, and on.

It’s safe to say that if marriage were ever redefined nationally, we would see happen across America what has happened in New York: the full force of government would be deployed to force people not only to accept it, but participate in it.

"How does 'gay marriage’ affect you?" It threatens your church’s liberties, it changes your child’s school curriculum, it determines which charities are allowed to operate and what businesses will be allowed to continue, and it engenders "coercive big government run amok" narrowing and cutting away at our rights to speak and act upon the truth of marriage.

Rolling Back the Tide

I referred earlier to our civil liberties being eroded by the "tidal wave" of same-sex marriage. I borrow the phrase from Bobby Lopez, who used it in a recent talk to the Anscombe Society at Stanford.

Bobby was speaking about the effects of redefining marriage on children, whose rights are almost always ignored when our opponents bring this debate into the public square. Bobby said that the same-sex marriage agenda, in practice, "ultimately means that in order to protect the sexual relationship between two adults, you have to shatter the relationship between a child and either his father or his mother."

He said that those "who kept on warning that gay marriage was a portal to new things" years ago (when he disagreed with that view) have turned out to be right: "Gay marriage became this tidal wave that then swept up children."

But I need to repeat something I have said again and again in these newsletters: it is NOT inevitable!

Just this week, we saw a huge victory in the judicial realm when the Supreme Court unanimously decided to block the enforcement of a ruling in Virginia that had struck down that State’s marriage amendment! And that’s on top of the tremendous court victory in Tennessee which rejected an attempt to redefine marriage.

These are the sorts of things which, according to the inevitability narrative parroted by our opponents, should never happen. And yet it did.

So, remain hopeful. Unfortunately, there will be more such sad cases as that of the Giffords—cases of good and honorable Americans unjustly targeted and discriminated against simply for believing in marriage between a man and a woman.

But we will see that tide roll back, and an end to "coercive big government run amok."

We have the truth on our side. We have the right principles, and a just cause. We stand for something wholesome and good: we stand for marriage as God made it and as humanity has treasured it; we stand for the rights of kids to a mom and a dad; we stand for the liberty of conscience.

Let’s continue to stand for those things bravely and unwaveringly, because marriage will have its day in court again—and we’re going to win!


Brian S Brown

Brian S. Brown
National Organization for Marriage

Brian Brown

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