Farmer’s market discrimination dispute taken to federal court


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WLNS) — After months of controversy, we’re still waiting for what’s next in the lawsuit between a local apple grower and the city of East Lansing.

No decision on the lawsuit was made Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Kalamazoo.

The hearing was all about both sides laying out their case for the judge.

It’s an apple dispute with deep roots in a nationwide debate.

“Every American has the right to speak freely, and to freely live out their religious beliefs,” said Kate Anderson, Legal Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.

“The city is entitled to protect sexual orientation,” said Michael Bogren, an attorney representing the city of East Lansing.

Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Kalamazoo heard Country Mill Farms vs. City of East Lansing.

This summer, Country Mill Farms, which is located in Eaton County, sued the city because it wouldn’t allow them to sell apples at the city-run farmer’s market.

That stems from a Facebook post in December from the farm that said they wouldn’t host weddings for same-sex couples.

“The city took action in terms of adopting a policy of having all of their vendors to comply with their human rights ordinance,” Bogren said.

The city says it has the right to control who it does business with.

“What the city cares about is about prohibiting discrimination,” Bogren said.

Country Mill is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious rights organization that some have labeled as a LGBT hate group.

They say farm owner Steve Tennes has never discriminated against anyone at the market.

“The only reason he was removed from the farmer’s market was a Facebook post that he posted, stating his religious beliefs. The statement of those beliefs was the only reason he was removed from the market, and that’s unconstitutional,” Anderson said.

What happens next is now up to the judge.

“We just want Tennes to be able to go back to the market and to live according to his beliefs, as every American should,” Anderson said.

“I am hoping the court will grant our motion to dismiss and dismiss the complaint entirely,” Bogren said.

There’s no timeline for when the judge will issue his ruling.

But we’ll be sure to let you know when it happens.

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