Historic Star Barn's ban on same-sex weddings prompts outcry
The Star Barn in West Donegal Township. A grand opening is set for July 3 and 4. (Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)
This story has been updated with additional details.
(Elizabethtown) — 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 controversial wedding policy at The Star Barn, a top wedding spot in Elizabethtown that is surrounded by farmland, orchards and vineyards in scenic Lancaster County, was discovered last month by a retired teacher who went to an event there. He 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 go against his Roman Catholic convictions. He claims 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.
Now, 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.
LNP reported the tourism group sent an email to members saying they chose Star Barn for the meeting long before the controversy, and said they understand if some members feel like they can’t attend.
“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.”
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.
The historic 1877 Star Barn and its ancillary structures were moved from their former home to the 275-acre (111.3-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.
An earlier version of this story appears below.
(Elizabethtown) — A Lancaster County tourism group is sticking by its decision to hold a meeting at the historic Star Barn, despite an outcry of the locale’s policy banning same-sex weddings.
The Star Barn is a top wedding spot in Elizabethtown, surrounded by farmland, orchards and vineyards in scenic Lancaster County.
Owner David Abel tells PennLive.com same-sex weddings go against his Roman Catholic convictions.
A teacher who recently attended a function there took to social media when he discovered the policy.
Now, some business partners with Discover Lancaster say they won’t attend the annual meeting at the Star Barn on Thursday.
LNP reports the tourism group sent an email to members saying they chose Star Barn for the meeting long before the controversy, and say they understand if some members feel like they can’t attend.