I had a very interesting phone conversation with the Market Manager of the Ithaca Farmer’s Market (IFM), Cathryn Koken, this morning about the market’s business relationship with Rose Marie Belforti – the town clerk of Ledyard, New York, and a local cheese maker – who has stated that God does not want her to give marriage licenses to gay couples, despite state law requiring her to do so. And I have to admit I felt a bit of sympathy for Cathryn. By her voice alone, you could tell that having the farmer’s market dragged into this debacle of anti-gay bigotry had left her frazzled to the point of exasperation. I was obviously not the only one to make phone calls to the IFM once it became known that Belforti proudly boasts that the market carries her products on her Finger Lakes Farm website. Cathryn was adamant that the IFM had no legal way of stopping Belforti from selling her products at the market. But then seemed to contradict herself when I asked her a follow-up question. I asked if, for example, the Klu Klux Klan decided to start making cheese and wanted to sell it, would the market’s position be that they would have no legal way of stopping the KKK from selling their products at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market? This question seemed to bring Mrs Koken to a new level of distress. At first she stated that board members would not allow a group like the KKK to sell products at the market, but then she seemed to realize she was contradicting herself, and began repeating that the market had no legal means of removing Belforti. But if the board members have the power to stop the KKK from selling their products, shouldn’t they be able to do the same in regard to Belforti?
Cathryn also indicated that the market had a set of guidelines and rules (which she kindly emailed me a copy of) and that the IFM strive to be non-political and do not allow politicians or proselytizing at the market (which seems to ignore the fact that Belforti is not only a politician, but an elected official who uses her position to promote anti-gay bigotry). And the IFM code of conduct also states that “no discrimination is permitted at the market.” But one needs only visit the Belforti farm facebook page to see that the farm and her products are being used to promote her bigoted religious beliefs. A Facebook comment from Finger Lakes states quite clearly that they actively remove “hurtful” comments that disapprove of Belforti’s discriminatory actions – but they do not remove the comments that praise Belforti’s anti-gay bigotry. Those comments are still on full display.