The Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville, Vermont, deemed "New England's Best Family Resort" by Yankee Magazine, says on its website that "There are so many things that make us different." And they don't just mean "the fact that we have 8 children of our own," which, honestly, doesn't really have anything to do with excellent hospitality service, unless the inn assigns one of them as a personal butler to each guest upon check in.
No, what makes the resort special is how the owners "take pride in sharing the beautiful Wildflower Inn as a home for all our of our guests who visit us, be them little or not, or one of God's creatures (we have recently gone Dog Friendly)."
Dog friendly and "little" people friendly, perhaps, but decidedly not lesbian friendly: the inn recently settled a lawsuit brought after innkeepers Mary and Jim O'Reilly said their "personal feelings" prohibited them from hosting a lesbian couple's wedding reception.
Kate Linsey (nee Baker) and Ming Linsley, both of New York, planned on holding their wedding ceremony at a nearby Buddhist retreat before having their reception at the Wildflower Inn last year. The inn's website waxes prosaic about how perfect it is for romantic getaways, and Channie Peters, Ming Linsley's mother, even received material from the inn saying "you could not offer a better 'destination wedding' location for your guests" while she was planning the reception.
But when Peters told the inn that Kate and Ming were "bride and bride," she received an email from the O'Reilly's entitled, "I have bad news." That's when they learned that the Wildflower Inn's owners were, to put it succinctly, homophobes.
"Personal feelings" aside, the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act does not allow public accommodations without official religious ties to deny goods and services based on customers' sexual orientation. So, with the help of the ACLU, the couple sued — and won. The inn now has to pay $10,000 to the Vermont Human Rights Commission and place $20,000 in a charitable trust controlled by the Linsleys. They will also no longer host wedding receptions, ostensibly because the owners would rather lose what must be potentially tens of thousands of dollars than give up their right to discriminate against same-sex couples.
"We're glad that the Wildflower Inn has recognized that the way we were treated was wrong and that no other family will have to experience what we did," said Ming Linsley. But it doesn't really sound like that's what happened. "The Wildflower Inn has always served - and will continue to serve - everyone in our community. But no one can force us to abandon our deeply held beliefs about marriage," O'Reilly said in a whopping oxymoron of a statement issued by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a faith-based legal ministry. He added that the inn could not "match the limitless resources of the government and the ACLU."
People planning to visit Vermont in the near (or far) future: please don't stay here, k?