Judge: City was wrong to bar farmer over views

EAST LANSING (AP) — A judge has ordered a Michigan city to make room again for a farmer who was barred from selling apples at a seasonal market because he doesn’t allow gay couples to get married at his orchard, which is a popular wedding spot.

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney granted an injunction Friday to Steve Tennes, saying the city of East Lansing likely violated his religious and free speech rights.

Tennes had been a popular apple dealer at the city-run market until officials learned he doesn't allow gay couples to get married at his Eaton County farm because of his religious beliefs.

He expressed his views on Facebook last year and wasn’t invited back this season.

Maloney noted that East Lansing became aware of Tennes’ position and changed its rules to require vendors to comply with the city's civil rights ordinance, which bars discrimination.
The orchard is 22 miles away in another county.

“The context in which the vendor guidelines were amended and then applied to Country Mill supports plaintiffs’ claim that their religious beliefs or their religiously motivated conduct was the target of the city’s actions,” Maloney said.

City officials didn’t immediately comment on the ruling.

During arguments two days earlier, city attorney Michael Bogren said the city had reacted to Tennes’ conduct, not his speech or religion.

The judge ordered the city to open the market to Tennes through October, the end of the season, while his lawsuit proceeds.

Tennes vowed to be at the market Sunday with cider and organic apples.