Suit filed against East Lansing after farmer banned from farmer’s market

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The city of East Lansing is now facing a lawsuit when it comes to the city’s farmers market.

The suit was filed this morning after the city excluded Charlotte-area farmer Steve Tennes and his family from selling their crops at the farmer’s market because of the family’s religious beliefs.

The dispute started in August last year when a person reached out to Steve Tennes on the Country Mill’s Farm Facebook page regarding their religious marital beliefs.

Tennes responded honestly stating he and his family will not book same-sex couple weddings at their farm because it is against their religious views.

Since then, the situation escalated and the city of East Lansing refused Tennes and his family a spot at the farmer’s market and now the Tennes family is taking legal action against East Lansing.

“It is our faith that has made us a target of government discrimination,” Tennes stated.

This afternoon, Country Mill Owner Steve Tennes, his attorney and a group of state lawmakers announced their stance on East Lansing’s decision to ban Tennes from the local farmer’s market based on his religious beliefs.

Tennes says the exclusion is a violation of his first amendment rights.

“The government shouldn’t treat some people worse than others simply because they don’t agree with their thoughts or their ideas,” said Tennes.

However, East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas says the city has a non-discrimination ordinance in effect and regardless of your religious views, if you’re doing business in East Lansing…discriminating against same-sex couples is not allowed even if on your own private property.

“If the same thing were held where they were excluding people because of their race or religion from purchasing products at their facility in another city then wanted to sell at our farmers market and say but we’re not discriminating here…that to us isn’t acceptable,” Lahanas stated.

Tennes has sold his crops in East Lansing for the past seven years and now that the city is restricting him from that, Tennes says it not only causes a financial burden but more importantly he says it’s discrimination from the government and action needs to be taken.

“It’s about our freedom…we have children who will have grandchildren we want them to have the same freedom to be able to not only grow and sell their produce to people of all backgrounds and beliefs but to do it in accordance with their faith,” Tennes stated.

Lahanas says if Tennes were to allow same-sex couples to wed at his farm or simply not allow weddings at all…he and his family would be allowed back to the farmers market.

Republican State Representative Tom Barrett put out a statement supporting the Tennes family today…he says he supports their first amendment rights.

He says quote:

“I applaud their courage to bring this issue forward. Steve and Bridget did not ask for this battle but I am proud to stand with them as they fight for religious freedom and free speech.”

Stay with 6 News as we’ll be sure to keep you updated on the lawsuit.

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