Federal judge rules East Lansing must allow farmer to return to market
Update 5:15 p.m.: The City of East Lansing released the following statement Friday evening in response to the ruling:
“The City is disappointed in the Court’s ruling. The City believes
that the Court relied on the Plaintiff’s complaint and disregarded the
contrary facts that were set forth in the Defendant’s answer and reply
to the Plaintiff’s motion. At the time of the Court’s ruling, the
Court also had the benefit of the facts established by the City’s
Motion to Dismiss. The City will be considering the seeking of a stay
and an appeal of the ruling.
In the meantime, the city will comply with the ruling of the Court and
urges those who may also be disappointed in the ruling to respect the
Court’s decision. The City has a significant event scheduled for the
Farmer’s Market this weekend and urges everyone participating to
respect each other and the sometimes conflicting views that people
A federal judge ruled Friday that the East Lansing must allow The Country Mill and owner Steve Tennes to return to this year's farmer's market, claiming Tennes and his beliefs are protected under the first amendment, according to a press release from Alliance for Defending Freedom.
Last August, Tennes released a statement on Facebook stating that he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman. This violated an East Lansing anti-discriminatory policy that Alliance for Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Kate Anderson claimed was created solely to prevent Tennes from participating in the East Lansing Farmer's Market.
Anderson said that because the farmer's market will be closing soon in October, they hoped that this decision would be announced quickly after the hearing on Sept. 13.
According to Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier, Tennes refused to allow same-sex couples rent out his orchard for weddings and because of this discriminatory business practice based on sexual orientation, the city took action.
Tennes told The State News that The Country Mill has "always served all people of diverse backgrounds" for the last seven years and that he and his wife have been receiving support from people, including those who disagree with his beliefs.
Beier believes that vendor's at the farmer's market should not be permitted to discriminate.
"He can write whatever he wants," Beier said. "We're not trying to say that because he wrote something he can't be at our farmer's market... It's his action that we find discriminatory, it's not his speech. We're not trying to control speech."
The City Manager and City Attorney are developing a statement that will be released later today, Beier said.