ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A county tourism group will hold a meeting at a historic venue in Pennsylvania Dutch Country despite a recent outcry over the locale’s ban on same-sex weddings.
The policy at The Star Barn, a top wedding spot in Elizabethtown that is surrounded by farmland, orchards, and vineyards in scenic Lancaster County, drew the attention last month of a retired teacher who was attending an event there.
Steven Dinnocenti, who is gay and married, took to social media after he found out about the ban, fueling criticism about the policy.
Owner David Abel told PennLive.com same-sex weddings to go against his Roman Catholic convictions, but he argues that he doesn’t tolerate discrimination in his business or in public settings and that he doesn’t discriminate in his hiring practices.
Abel has been in business 43 years and owns several business ventures, including DAS, a global automotive parts company.
“No persons will be discriminated against; however, we ask people to respect that we have core tenants in our faith and our beliefs and we cannot participate in any event that would be in contradiction to those core tenants — one of them being marriage, which has been biblically based for thousands of years as being between a man and a woman,” he wrote in an email to the news site.
Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, finding the state’s civil rights commission showed anti-religious bias when it ruled against the baker for refusing to make the cake.
The Supreme Court decision, however, didn’t address the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gay and lesbian people.
Discover Lancaster, the county’s main tourism organization, sent an email to members saying they chose Star Barn for the meeting long before the controversy and said they understand if some members don’t want to attend, news site LNP reported.
“We regret if our choice of the Star Barn for this event has inadvertently caused pain or misunderstanding within any element of our tourism community or beyond,” Discover Lancaster’s communications director, Joel Cliff, said in a statement to LNP. “As an industry, our aim is to welcome all and promote all. The same is true for this event.”
But some business partners with Discover Lancaster said they won’t attend the annual meeting Thursday at the Star Barn because of its policy on gay weddings.
For Dinnocenti, the policy is enough to make him never return to the venue. “Discrimination is discrimination,” Dinnocenti told PennLive. “When you get the door slammed in your face, it’s offensive. It’s wrong. You are saying our money is not as good as the next person’s.”
The historic 1877 Star Barn and its ancillary structures were moved from their former home to the 275-acre (110-hectare) Stone Gables Estate and opened for business last summer, according to PennLive.
The spot includes a working horse ranch, several event spaces, and a full-scale, operational steam locomotive. It’s a replica of one of the engines that pulled the funeral train for President Abraham Lincoln. That train passed through the Stone Gables Estate in 1865.