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Judge orders East Lansing & Country Mill Farms to trial

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Posted at 9:23 AM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 09:23:03-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The two-year legal battle between East Lansing and the owner of Country Mill Farms in Charlotte will go to trial next fall. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Maloney issued an order Wednesday setting the trial for September 14, 2020.

Country Mill Farms owner Steve Tennes sued in May of 2017 after the city refused to give him a vendor's license for the farmers market. The city cited its non-discrimination ordinance and Tennes' refusal to allow same-sex marriages at the orchard.

Tennes claims he's being unfairly punished for his religious beliefs. "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 told wilx.com in 2017.

East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas responded at the time, saying the decision was based on his actions, not his beliefs, saying "It's got nothing to do with their free speech it has to do with their business practices."

Judge Maloney issued an injunction ordering the city to allow Country Mill Farms back into the farmers market while the case was pending. Both sides asked him to issue a summary judgment on the case. Judge Maloney granted and denied part of each claim, setting the table for the trial in September of 2020.

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