Local farmer uses sign to protest city of East Lansing

One local man is taking a stand against discrimination. And in this case, he’s targeting the city of East Lansing.

If you’re driving north on U.S. 127, you might see a sign that catches your eye.

In big, bold letters, it reads “The city of East Lansing discriminates against farmers.”

Eight words, one man hopes will send a message to those traveling by.

“If you don’t agree with what the city of East Lansing believes in or their policies, then you might want to keep your mouth shut, or the city of East Lansing is going to discriminate against them,” says St. Johns farmer, Kyle Barnhart.

In May, the Tennes family filed a lawsuit against the city of East Lansing after it banned them from selling their crops because of religious beliefs.

When Barnhart heard about it, he knew, as a fellow farmer, he needed to take a stand.

After reaching out to the city to share his opinion about banning the Tennes family, Barnhart decided to protest, hoping others will also realize the significance of his sign.

“Maybe take a little more interest in what is going on with a city that’s that close by,” says Barnhart.

Barnhart says, by targeting the Tennes family, the city is violating it’s own civil rights ordinance and says, for him, the issue isn’t about gay marriage, it’s about how city officials handle a problem.

The city of East Lansing has released the following statement in response to this lawsuit:

“The Country Mill has been excluded from the East Lansing Farmer’s Market because the East Lansing Farmer’s Market policy requires that all vendors comply with the City’s Civil Rights ordinances while at the market and as a general business practice. Contrary to this policy and the constitutionally protected rights of all couples, The Country Mill has advertised that their business practice is to prohibit same-sex couples from holding weddings at their orchard in Charlotte, MI. Their business practices violate the City of East Lansing’s long-standing ordinance that protects sexual orientation as well as the Supreme Court’s ruling that grants the right for same-sex couples to be married.”

Legal council for Country Mill Farms say they’re appreciative of those who have supported them saying, “What is said on the sign is true. The city is violating it’s civil right’s ordinance by discriminating against the Tennes family and their religious beliefs.

“Keep up the fight, I don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong,” says Barnhart.

Though his sign may only read those eight words, it means much more to the man who put them there.

“They didn’t start this whole fight, the city of East Lansing started it, and ya know, don’t give up,” says Barnhart.

The case is still pending in Federal Court.

6-News will stay on top of this story for you as the legal process continues and let you know if anything comes out of it.

In May, a Charlotte-area farmer named Steve Tennes filed a lawsuit against the city of East Lansing after being excluded from the city’s farmers market because of a Facebook message. In it, Tennes told someone his family would not allow gay marriages on their farm.

When the city was made aware of it, they banned him from selling his goods.

East Lansing officials say, they have a non-discrimination ordinance in effect, which means, regardless of a person’s religious views, they are not allowed to discriminate if they do business in East Lansing.

According to the ordinance, discriminating against same-sex couples, is not allowed, even on private property.

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