Star Barn protest focuses on policy banning same sex marriage ceremonies

Written by Brett Sholtis/WITF News | Apr 11, 2019 5:31 PM
Star Barn Love sign -- SHRUNK for WITF.jpg

Linda Strauss of Lancaster holds a sign in support of LGBTQ+ rights. (Brett Sholtis/WITF News)

(Elizabethtown) -- The Star Barn event venue in Elizabethtown is the focus of protests after someone pointed out on social media that its owners don't allow same-sex couples to get married there. 

About 50 people gathered in town Thursday, some holding rainbow flags and LGBTQ+ rights signs, while others held printed signs that said "I support Star Barn." 

Community advocacy group Lancaster Stands Up had planned to protest at the Star Barn during a meeting of the tourism group, Discover Lancaster. However, Discover Lancaster canceled its meeting, citing some members' concern over the policy, and the venue was closed for the day. 

The protest brings to Lancaster County a clash between equality rights advocates and religious business owners that has played out across the country. The sprawling estate, surrounded by farmland, orchards and vineyards, is a top wedding spot that boasts being "one of the most photographed and artistically painted barns in America" on its website.

A retired teacher who went to an event at the venue last month took to social media after he found out about the policy.

Reconstructed Star Barn

The Star Barn in West Donegal Township. (Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)

Star Barn owner David Abel told same-sex weddings go against his Roman Catholic convictions. He said he doesn't tolerate discrimination against anyone, not in his business or in a public setting, 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.

At the protest, Linda Strauss said she came over from Lancaster because she believes that refusing service to someone based on their sexual orientation is a form of discrimination. Strauss said she has gay and trans family members, and she wants them to have the same rights she does. 

"You can't separate one group from another," Strauss said. "It's all tied together. Racism, sexism, whatever title you want to put on it, discrimination is discrimination." 

A few feet away, Sharon Ogilvie of Elizabethtown sang along with a church group. Ogilvie said she came out to support Abel after hearing about Star Barn on the news. Ogilvie said it's not right to force business owners to go against their religious convictions. 

"It's fine for the Abels to have their conviction in their business," Ogilvie said. "We shouldn't be trying to condemn them or shut them down or decrease their business there." 

Star Barn singers - SHRUNK for WITF.jpg

Two musicians play instruments and sing a Christian song. (Brett Sholtis/WITF News)

Legally, the verdict is still out on whether a business can do what Star Barn is doing. 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.

Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Star Barn Trump guy -- SHRUNK for WITF.jpg

A man holds a sign that reads, on one side, "Vote God," and on the other side, "Vote Trump." In the background, a protest leader speaks into a bullhorn. The group leading the protest, Lancaster Stand Up, formed in 2016 to oppose the Trump administration and improve local civic involvement, according to its website. (Brett Sholtis/WITF News)


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