Town Of Thayne Responds To Gay Discrimination Lawsuit
The Town of Thayne and its officials denied they violated the constitutional rights of a gay couple who own a restaurant, according to their recent response to a federal lawsuit filed in January.
They also said Marc and Rusty Andrus, a married gay couple, should have to follow state law and file a report with it through the Governmental Claims Act before demanding any damages, according to the response filed in U.S. District Court on March 13.
"Plaintifffs have not, at any time, filed a claim with the Town of Thayne upon their state law claims, which his a legal prerequisite to bringing an action based on state law against these Defendants," according to the response.
For these and other reasons, the Town of Thayne wants the court to dismiss the Andruses' lawsuit.
In their lawsuit filed Jan. 9, the Andruses asserted the town has inconsistently, if not illegally, applied rules about restaurants, liquor licenses, regulations, council meeting procedures, law enforcement, and other issues about their restaurant, Rustlers, LLC, compared to other establishments whose owners are not lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ('LGBT').
The local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints drives that conduct, according to their lawsuit: "In essence, with respect to Plaintiff's liquor licenses and other interactions before Defendants as government officials, Defendants have conducted the Town of Thayne municipal government as a theocracy."
As such, Thayne and the Town Council have violated their First and 14th Amendment rights, according to the Andruses' lawsuit filed by their attorneys James Lubing and Kevin Gregory of Jackson. Gregory declined to comment on the town's response.
Some of the issues raised by the Andruses were related to the process of obtaining the bar and grill liquor license -- the only one in Thayne -- and alleged poor responses to behaviors of non-LGBT-owned establishments.
But the major issues have to do with alleged violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which forbids government endorsement of a religion, and the nondiscrimination clause of the 14th Amendment.
The Andruses claim Mayor DeLand Lainhart one time went to the restaurant and told them he spoke to a high-ranking local member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who said he approved of their receiving the liquor license. "When questioned about the legality or appropriateness of having a religious leader influence or impact local government decisions, Defendant Mayor of Thayne stated '[this religious leader] represented the people' of Thayne."
In its response, the Town denied that allegation, but did not go into details.
In fact, the Town Council voted unanimously for the annual renewal of the license in 2017, "... as such, it is unclear what the Plaintiffs are complaining about as the license was renewed."
The Andruses said they were subjected to hostile anti-gay slurs at a Town Council meeting, but they did not register a complaint with council members about the adverse treatment, according to the response.
As another example, the Andruses complained that patrons of other bars who were over-served had harassed them and their employees.
But Lainhart met with the holders of other liquor license holders to determine if the Andruses' allegations were correct and cautioned them against harassment, according to the town's response.
The town and its council, according to the response said, "Plaintiffs have not been treated in a discriminatory manner and no Constitutional violations have been perpetrated by the Defendants."