So I’m kicking off Pride Month with a local issue. Yesterday, NBC25 reported about an Eaton County farmer who was denied a space at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market for his decision to not allow same-sex marriages at his apple farm venue.
So in true Brian fashion, I have to throw in my two cents.
As someone who is in a same-sex relationship and is engaged to be married next Fall, this hits very close to home. As we’ve started planning, we’ve encountered many of these types of venues and businesses across the state. All being privately owned, I absolutely respect their decision. I don’t agree and think my money is just as green as “traditional” couples”, but I don’t think anyone can tell another what to believe or think even if it excludes me.
Reading through the article and comments, there is support of both sides from the community and a lot of back and forth. So before moving forward let me clear up what I believe is the underlying issue:
Does a privately owned apple farm business who discriminates against same-sex marriages from being hosted in their venue in Eaton County but who does not discriminate selling produce to patrons have access to a public venue which require an application and “stall fee” in East Lansing?
My first reaction is no. No, they do not have access to public venues if it is discovered that they practice discrimination anywhere in their business or organization.
Five minutes later, after calming down for a moment, I started researching the apple farm, the East Lansing Farmer’s Market and the East Lansing Civil Rights Ordinances.
Looking at the ordinance and other information, I can see how both sides have plausible cases.
The East Lansing Code of Ordinances Civil Rights Code has a general non-discrimination practice and delineates it further into Employment, Housing, and Public Accommodations and Services all within the context of public spaces and the city.
That being said, while East Lansing can say that they made this decision because the privately owned apple farm does not allow same-sex marriages on their property, and therefore they are not able to accept their application for a stall at the market; Country Mills could push back and say that as a religious belief they do not allow same-sex marriages and therefore if the city denies them space it’s also against the East Lansing Civil Rights Ordinance as religion is also named in the ordinance.
So, to me it’s a Catch-22.
My opinion/solution would be this:
If the products of the apple farm are high quality, that guests of the East Lansing Farmer’s Market enjoy their produce, they pay the applicable fees and meet all health standards, etc., then allow them their stall.
I would then put into practice something similar to what the Equality Caucus of Genesee County is implementing; a certification/verification program which recognizes businesses who uphold non-discriminatory practices. You could provide them with something to put up in their stall to indicate so, such as a certificate or sticker. Also, I’d utilize social media and the website to indicate not only all vendors who are part of the market, but also which ones who uphold non-discriminatory practices within their establishments.
I think allowing the people of the city and guests of the market to make their own decisions on whether or not to patron businesses which discriminate is right and more impactful.
I know personally, I look for these stickers or certifications often. My fiance and I use many of the directories that are out there that indicate who is LGBT friendly to make decisions on which services and businesses to patronize.
Additionally, it’d be a double whammy as well if a business pays fees for space but are not able to produce any revenue because the public takes a stand and does not patron their stall. It also may resonate more if the impact is more tangible than just not allowing them the opportunity and they stay within their own bubble.
Non-discrimination policies and ordinances are not in place to shove the “gay agenda” down someone’s throat or to exclude individuals who have strict and conservative religious beliefs. They are to ensure equal opportunity and access. Success in this case should be determined by the public and who they decide to patronize.
Now, I will rally and rail against businesses who are discriminatory and encourage all my friends to not patron them. And you can bet if they have a stall I will go out of my way to ensure they know that I’m not patronizing them because they do discriminate. But I will allow them to have the opportunity to try to sell to me, and I’ll take advantage of my opportunity to say no to them.
Just my two cents to this issue.
Thanks for considering my perspective on this!
Until next time,
Peace, Love and Pandas!
Country Mills Farms: http://www.countrymillfarms.com/
East Lansing Code of Ordinances-Civil Rights: https://www.municode.com/library/mi/east_lansing/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIICOOR_CH22HURE_ARTIICIRI
East Lansing Farmer’s Market: https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/213/Farmers-Market
Equality Caucus of Genesee County: https://www.facebook.com/groups/EqualityCaucus/