Farmer suing East Lansing after being kicked out of farmer's market

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - To be able to sell your crops at the East Lansing farmer's market you have to agree to the city's non-discrimination ordinance.

"I think it's a very strong principle that you should not be discriminating against somebody elsewhere and then come here and want to participate in our market," George Lahanas said. He’s the East Lansing City Manager.

Lahanas says that's why Steve Tennes with the country mill was told not to come back to the market. Tennes says he won't allow same-sex couples to get married on his orchard because of his religious beliefs. He says he's being bullied for his faith.

"Hosting weddings at our home and in the backyard of our farm have nothing to do with the city of East Lansing. Nor does it have anything to do with the produce that we sell," Tennes.

He says he has the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech... But Lahanas says...

"It's got nothing to do with their free speech it has to do with their business practice," Lahanas said.

Lahanas says the city of East Lansing is a welcoming city and discrimination won't be tolerated. He says this issue has been going on since august. That's when the city told Tennes he was violating the ordinance, so the country mill stopped holding weddings altogether. They were allowed to stay in the market. But in December, they announced they'd hold weddings again, still excluding same-sex couples. Lahanas says if they allow same-sex couples or stop holding weddings altogether again, they'd be welcomed back. Tennes says he's going to fight for his beliefs.

"We have to stand up for what's right and be able to speak freely about our beliefs,” Tennes said. “And to live out our own beliefs at our own home on our own farm."

ORIGINAL:

A Charlotte farmer is suing the city of East Lansing after being told not to come back to the farmer's market. A city spokesperson says he violated a city civil rights ordinance by not allowing same-sex couples to get married at his orchard.

The farmer, Steve Tennes, owns the Country Mill Orchard. He's participated in East Lansing's farmer's market for seven years. He says he was told he's not allowed to come back because he won't allow same-sex marriage on his orchard. He says he doesn't allow it because of his faith and refers same-sex couples to another orchard.

Tennes is suing in federal court. He wants to be let back into the farmer's market and he wants damages for being kicked out. No dollar amount is set at this stage.

Last year he told us at WILX the Country Mill would no longer hose weddings. He restarted them in the winter.