Gay couple launch lawsuit against tiny town for discrimination against their business
A gay couple in a tiny town in America has launched a lawsuit against the town council for discriminating against them and their business.
Marc and Rusty Andrus live in Thayne, Wyoming, a small town with a population of approximately 366 people.
In 2015, the couple decided to buy a worn out property to make into their passion project.
They hoped to renovate the building and bring it up to standards so they could open a bar/restaurant called Rustlers Restaurant and Saloon.
However, the pair began to encounter hurdles and obstacles the closer they came to opening their restaurant.
From being prevented from applying for a bar and grill license to being forced to adhere to outdated regulations that other local businesses were not subjected too, the Andrus couple says that the town council did everything they could to make the journey a difficult one all because of discrimination.
In the lawsuit, the two said that they were discriminated against because they’re gay, violating their due process rights.
As well as facing obstructions from the town council, the couple claimed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon church) had a direct influence on the outcome of their business and town decisions, which violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The lawsuit explained how the couple faced not only bureaucratic blocks from the council, but also were repeatedly harassed and abused by other people living in the town.
Recalling one town meeting, the suit stated that: “Plaintiffs were subjected to verbal accusations and hostility from multiple members of the Town Council. Defendant Council Members Joe Heward and Lorell Woolley repeatedly and very publicly accused Plaintiffs of being deceitful without any basis for such accusations whatsoever.”
Other people at the meeting also used “hostile gay slurs” – a recurring problem for the couple, who say they were subjected to homophobic abuse for months following the town meeting.
Drunken people leaving nearby bars would walk past their saloon and shout homophobic phrases. A fence that they were forced to build was also crashed into twice by locals.
The couple did not want the fence around their establishment either but were forced to build it despite it not being required by the town’s regulations – yet another choice that was made in the town meeting that apparently sparked the homophobic discrimination the couple believe they have been subjected too.
Mayor DeLand Lainhart also ordered the town to collect sales tax receipts monthly (instead of yearly, as prescribed by state law) and threatened to close the bar if the appropriate food-to-alcohol sales ratio was not maintained.
The mayor said he would enter the restaurant regularly to make sure the grill was on.
On one of those visits, Lainhard reportedly told the Adrus family that a local member of the Mormon clergy approved giving them their license. When they asked why that mattered, he allegedly responded, “[This religious leader] represented the people of Thayne.”
The council did finally approve their license but charged them $10,500 instead of the standard $1,500