A Houston landscaping company is under fire for turning down a job because its Christian owners have a policy of not working for homosexual customers – a decision that has spurred calls for a boycott and an anti-discrimination ordinance that would prevent them from selecting clients based on sexual orientation.
Todd and Sabrina Farber have owned and operated The Garden Guy since 1991 and, like other landscape contractors, use the Internet to show the quality of their past work and to solicit future business.
The Garden Guy was just one of the landscaping businesses Michael Lord and Gary Lackey, a homosexual couple who has been together for nine years, requested bids from earlier this week for the new home they’re building in Houston Heights. Lord said he found The Garden Guy through an Internet search and liked the “before and after” pictures on the website.
“We sent e-mails to several local landscaping companies asking for quotes. Garden Guy called Michael back saying they would like to bid,” Lackey told the Houston Voice. Lord called the company Wednesday morning to set up an appointment.
“Michael was asked if ‘his wife would be home’ when the consultation would take place. He brushed it off, but when he was asked again if his wife would be joining, Michael said, “No, but my partner Gary will be.’
“Michael set up the appointment, but a few minutes later we got the e-mail.”
That e-mail has now become the subject of a nationwide online debate.
Subject: Cancel Appt – Garden Guy
Dear Mr. Lord,
I am appreciative of your time on the phone today and glad you contacted us. I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals.
Best of luck in finding someone else to fill your landscaping needs.
All my best,
Todd and Sabrina Farber
Owners, Garden Guy, Inc.
After receiving the e-mail, Lord called Lackey.
“He was in shock,” Lackey said. “We just couldn’t believe that had happened.”
Lackey forwarded the e-mail to about 200 of his friends, asking that they not patronize Garden Guy in the future.
Had Lord looked more closely he would have seen that the Farbers were very upfront with their faith. Beneath a photo of the couple and their four children, the Farbers wrote:
The God-ordained institution of marriage is under attack in courts across the nation, and your help is needed.
Go to: www.nogaymarriage.com to take action.
Ephesians 5:8 (Amplified Bible)
… For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light and lead the lives of those native-born to the Light.
That stance shortly became the topic of discussion online and in the homosexual press. The Farbers quickly set up a forum on their website but it was taken down Thursday, possible because of the crude language of some posters.
“I am embarrassed for you and your husband,” wrote “Chris.” “Just as you choose not to do business with us, I, my friends, my family, my co-workers and everyone I meet, will not do business with you! I have sent your e-mail to over 50 people I know and work with. These people know 50 others each … was your bigotry worth it?”
Some critics noted that the Garden Guy website stated that the business was a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, a claim disputed by the trade organization’s president in a statement criticizing the Farbers.
Amid the threats of boycotts and criticism of the Farber’s faith, one poster found the angry messages to be the problem:
“There is more hate in these posts than in the original e-mail,” wrote “Dave.” “Why do you feel that we Christians MUST accept you? Don’t you find it ironic that while you demand in one breath that we give up our position that homosexuality is a sin worthy of hell, that you condemn us to that very place in your next?”
A copy of the temporary forum site can be viewed here.
And while they’ve refused to talk with the media, the Farbers issued a public explanation for their decision:
To the Houston media
We did not refuse service with malicious intent. We do not hate homosexuals and we are sorry that we hurt Michael Lord and Gary Lackey. We meant to uphold our right as a small business owner to choose who our clients are. We are humbly sorry for the hurt that it has caused.
Todd and Sabrina Farber
That may not be enough, though. Some in the homosexual community are angry that what the Farbers did was not illegal.
“That’s the biggest issue. This is not against the law and that is a travesty,” Jerry Simoneaux, an attorney who specializes in homosexual issues told Houston’s KHOU-TV.
He noted other cities like Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and El Paso have adopted ordinances that would prohibit similar discrimination.
“We need something like that in Houston, but we don’t have it,” said Simoneaux.
The response to the Farber’s decision has not been universally negative.
The American Family Association issued a statement defending their business decision, saying, “Todd, like millions of Americans, obviously has a moral conviction based on his religious beliefs against homosexual behavior and that lifestyle. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
Bunnies on the Bayou
Lord and Lackey say they have received “lots of offers and recommendations” for a new landscaper.
Both men are listed as “hosts” for the homosexual group Bunnies on the Bayou, a Texas 501(c)3 charity that raises money for AIDS-related organizations and art groups. Bunnies was selected to serve as organization grand marshal for the 2006 Houston Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Pride Parade.
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