Vermont Resort Sued for Discriminating Against Lesbian Couple


The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against a Vermont resort that refused to host a lesbian couple’s wedding reception.

Kate Baker and Ming Linsley, a New York couple, wanted to hold their wedding ceremony at a Buddhist retreat in Vermont and then hold a reception at a nearby inn. The Wildflower Inn was recommended due to its spacious 24-room facilities and its award-winning reputation. When the events manager for the Wildflower Inn learned that it was a lesbian couple who would be staying at the resort, they were told that due to the innkeepers’ “personal feelings” the inn does not host “gay receptions.” Vermont law prohibits denial of services relating to sexual orientation.

It was in fact Linsley’s mother, Channie Peters, who had gone about organizing the reception, and so she was the one to have to break the news to her daughter and her spouse. You can imagine how that would feel.

From the ACLU press release:

“I had been so excited to help plan my only daughter’s wedding reception, so when the Wildflower Inn told me that my daughter wasn’t welcome there, it was like being kicked in the stomach,” said Peters. “Someone who didn’t even know us was telling me that my daughter wasn’t good enough to have her reception at their facility while everyone else who sees the resort’s website is welcome.”

The Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act explicitly prohibits any public accommodations from denying goods and services based on customers’ sexual orientation. The law applies to inns, restaurants, schools, stores and any other business that serves the general public. The act contains exceptions for religious organizations and small inns with five or fewer rooms; the Wildflower Inn fits neither category. The inn is a multimillion-dollar public business whose slogan is “Four Seasons for Everyone!”

“I was completely surprised when I was told that the resort had a “no gay reception” policy,” said Baker.”We wanted to celebrate our marriage with our loved ones in a beautiful country setting, and it never crossed my mind that a resort that is open to the public would discriminate against us based on the owners’ personal feelings about LGBT people.”

Although Peters was able to find an alternate location for her daughter’s reception, the experience was jarring to the women and their family.

“The discrimination from the Wildflower Inn cast a shadow on what should have been a purely joyous occasion,” said Linsley. “We didn’t want to stay quiet and allow this business to continue to discriminate against other couples.”

As to the reason for the law suit, Joshua Block, staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said: “The law is clear that any business that provides a service to the public can’t pick and choose who they want to serve based on the customer’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. If we allow one group of people to be singled out and denied basic rights and service, we are violating the basic American values of justice and fairness for everyone.”

Channie Peters has also written a separate comment on the ACLU website in which she relates why she supports this legal fight, saying, “When I realized that Vermont is one of 21 states that includes sexual orientation as a protected class in its anti-discrimination laws, I felt, and feel, strongly that this case is not about my daughter’s wedding. This is about a public place breaking the law. If I go into a store and shoplift, I will be arrested. The Wildflower Inn’s owners have broken the law. It would fly in the face of this country’s commitment to the rule of law for Vermont’s anti-discrimination law not to be enforced in this case, and for these business owners not to be held to the same legal standard as every other person, If discrimination is permitted in some instances, it can happen in any instance, to anyone. Then no American can trust that there will be liberty and justice for all.”

At the time of writing the owners of The Wildflower Inn have yet to comment.

Related Reading:
Utah Democrats Choose First Openly Gay Leader
ACLU Sues Alaska Over Trans Woman’s Driver’s License
Referendum to Overturn Cali. Gay Education Law?

Photo used under the MorgueFile user license, with thanks to mensatic.


K s Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Diane L.
Diane L.5 years ago

As I've said, my opinion is that the Inn has the right to refuse to book an EVENT at their choosing, since it's an "event" not a business open to the general public. However, While I agree with SOME of Fred's comments, calling gays or lesbians "queers" is offensive and disturbing. I flagged Floyd's comment, as it was EXTREMELY offensive to me, and didn't notice that Fred had used that word. I am not sure if I will flag it now or let it go. I can only hope that he learns a bit of respect and proper etiquette. Take the hatred and closed-mindedness so a more appropriate forum. This topic isn't even about whether or not gays/lesbians have a right to be in a relationship, but whether it was legal to refuse to host an event for them.

Patrick F.
Patrick f.5 years ago

See, they could have made a little coin on this but instead their "business savvy" might cost them a load of cash.

It is the obligation of the business owner to know the law and convey this to their employees.

Patrick F.
Patrick f.5 years ago

Fred C. says "No one has the right to force an inn to book a reception if they don't want to. It's the inn's right to turn down the business if they're unable to accommodate it. What gives these queers have the right to force their wacko views on the rest of us?"

Probably like with everything Fred, you're WRONG. Why? The law.

"The Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act prohibits any public accommodations from denying goods and services based on customers’ sexual orientation. The law applies to inns, restaurants, schools, stores and any other business that serves the general public. While there are exemptions for religious institutions, The Wildflower Inn is a public establishment."

Brenda Gilbert
Brenda Gilbert5 years ago

So sad that people on a site called CARE2 have such unCARING attitudes. Yes, everyone is entitled to express an opinion and everyone is entitled to agree or disagree with anyone else - but could we not all do this in a CARING way? Surely it isn't necessary to attack, judge or insult someone just because your views differ.
Please, let's show some compassion, open-mindedness and understanding. Aren't these the values we would like to see in the world as a whole? So let the change begin here, now and with each one of us.

Diane L.
Diane L.5 years ago

Catt R., "Diane L. by 'other than' you of course mean 'less than'........ I am sick of you so called Christians who believe that simply not outright killing those you do not embrace is the same as loving your neighbor".......that is disgustingly RUDE! Read what I said and take it in context, not for your personal vendetta against Christians (which I am not........I am not affiliated with ANY religion, just am "spiritual") and where on EARTH did anything I said imply I was condoning "killing" anyone? What does Katrina have to do with this topic?

If your comments weren't so outrageously ridiculous, I'd flag them as inappropriate.

Diane L.
Diane L.5 years ago

Yes, Floyd seems to be the one in need of counseling. Seriously, Floyd, this is 2011, not 1711! However, Fred has made some good points. So, Jan, why is it important that one have "friends" on Care.2 in order to NOT be called a "homophobe"? Some just joined, some don't do the "friends" and "note and sign" everything to get butterfly thing, so what is your relevancy?

Diane L.
Diane L.5 years ago

Mitch asked, "Diane L- seriously? That "story" is JUST that, a story, made up... BS, utterly and completely ridiculous! I know of no gay bars that would do this, ever!!! "....yes, Mitch. Seriously. This was back in about 1969 or 1970, and it was fact. I had to go with my husband's friend's WIFE to bail them both out of jail after they'd been arrested (called by the security person at the gay bar). It was in Seattle, and since I wasn't with them at the time, I don't know the name of the bar. It was well known at the time it was a "gay bar", but they had both been drinking, didn't know and went in, just the two of them "before". They were served, liked the atmosphere and went to get the friend's wife (I was at work at the time) and when they returned, were turned away. She got in her car and before they could, they were approached by a Seattle cop and arrested for "disorderly conduct". They had done NOTHING but try to go inside with a female.

Jan N.
Jan N.5 years ago

Fred has no Care2 friends. Floyd has no Care2 friends. Two lonely homophobes - it's a match made in heaven.

Nita M.
Nita Moccia5 years ago

VERMONT is not as friendly as you may think.Lets leave it at that.