Charlotte farm returns to East Lansing farmer’s market

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Country Mill Farms, a Charlotte apple orchard returned to the East Lansing farmer’s market Sunday after the city banned it from selling its products based on the owner’s religious beliefs on marriage.

Here’s some background on the story:

The dispute started last year in August after the city of East Lansing became aware of a post on Country Mill’s Facebook page showing its owner, Steve Tennes, does not allow same-sex couples to get married at the farm because it goes against the family’s religious views.

Because the city of East Lansing has a civil rights ordinance in place, it denied Tennes and his family from selling at the city’s farmers market because they say they are in violation of the ordinance.

But on Friday, a federal court tipped in Tennes’ favor requiring the city of East Lansing to allow Country Mill farm a spot at the farmers market for the rest of the season starting this weekend.

It appeared business as usual for Country Mill Farm and the dozens of other vendors who set up today and all seemed peaceful until a protestor showed up.

The man stood with a sign that read “Boycott Country Mill…they practice hate and bigotry” but that didn’t stop a sea of people from pouring in and buying products from Country Mill.

The protestor says he feels Tennes’ practices are discriminatory, hateful and he feels Tennes is hiding behind his religious views.

But others including one vendor says he doesn’t understand why this dispute had to end up in court because Tennes has never promoted his views against anyone at the farmers market regardless of his beliefs.

Here’s what both sides had to say.

“What he has done to this community has harmed people, people of faith or of no faith…he’s harmed them by telling them that they are less than human, that they are not worthy of respect, that they are not worthy of being allowed to have services with his business,” said Kennan Dewitt, a protestor against Country Mill Farm.

“We’re kind just buying food here and if you know what they’re doing and you agree with them or don’t agree with them, don’t buy their products but they’re not promoting marriage or not marriage or whatever here so it just kind of seems a little extraneous,” East Lansing Farmer’s Market Vendor Drew Kuhlman stated.

The city of East Lansing declined to comment on this matter today however, on Friday it issued a statement in response to the court’s ruling:

“The City is disappointed in the Court’s ruling. The City believes that the Court relied on the Plaintiff’s complaint and disregarded the contrary facts that were set forth in the Defendant’s answer and reply to the Plaintiff’s motion. At the time of the Court’s ruling, the Court also had the benefit of the facts established by the City’s Motion to Dismiss. The City will be considering the seeking of a stay and an appeal of the ruling.

In the meantime, the city will comply with the ruling of the Court and urges those who may also be disappointed in the ruling to respect the Court’s decision. The City has a significant event scheduled for the Farmer’s Market this weekend and urges everyone participating to respect each other and the sometimes conflicting views that people have.”

It’s important to note that the federal court granted Country Mill Farm a preliminary injunction, meaning the city is required to allow them to sell at the farmers market but that doesn’t mean the case is over since the city plans to appeal.

6 News will be sure to let you know if that happens.

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