August 24, 2012 Print

Vermont Innkeepers Settle Discrimination Case

by Karla Dial

The Roman Catholic owners of a Vermont bed-and-breakfast inn agreed this week to pay a total of $30,000 to a lesbian couple that wanted to hold same-sex wedding reception on their property.

In exchange for the payment, the Vermont Human Rights Commission agreed that the O’Reilly family, who own the Wildflower Inn, acted in good faith. In 2005, the commission approved their business practice — which is to disclose to all potential customers their religious convictions while serving everyone. The O’Reillys will pay $20,000 to a trust fund the women set up, and $10,000 to the Human Rights Commission.

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Vermont in 2011, after Katherine Baker and Ming-Lien Linsley contacted the inn about their reception. A former employee falsely told them the O’Reillys wouldn’t allow it to be held on their property, then tried to steer the women toward her personal business.

Jim O’Reilly said his family was settling the case to end the ordeal and preserve their business.

“The Wildflower Inn has always served — and will continue to serve — everyone in our community,” he said. “But no one can force us to abandon our deeply held beliefs about marriage. Our beliefs haven’t changed, but we do have lives to live, a family to love, a business to grow, and a community to serve. Small businesses like ours cannot match the limitless resources of the government and the ACLU. Ongoing litigation like this can cripple any small business and the livelihood of its owners, so we’re relieved to put this ordeal behind us.”

Read the settlement agreement in Baker v. Wildflower Inn.

See the timeline of events in the case.