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To Avoid Lawsuits, Antigay Iowa Venue Ends All Wedding Services

To Avoid Lawsuits, Antigay Iowa Venue Ends All Wedding Services

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The owners of Gortz Haus Gallery made the decision after paying $5,000 to settle a complaint by a same-sex couple.

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The owners of an Iowa art gallery and bistro have decided to end their long-standing practice of hosting weddings, in order to avoid the possibility of accommodating a same-sex marriage.

The Gortz Haus Gallery in Grimes, which once advertised itself as "the perfect venue for your wedding ceremony," has silenced its wedding bells after a failed attempt to circumvent Iowa's nondiscrimination law, reports The Des Moines Register.

The owners, a Mennonite couple named Betty and Richard Odgaard, had sued the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, claiming they were not required to accommodate same-sex weddings, since doing so would violate their religious freedom. A same-sex couple, Jared Ellers and Lee Stafford, had sought to marry at the venue, a restored Lutheran church that typically hosted 15 to 20 weddings a year. After they were turned away in 2013, they filed a complaint with the commission.

The Odgaards have now withdrawn the suit and paid $5,000 to settle Ellers and Stafford's complaint. As part of the settlement, reached in December, the gallery owners admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to no longer discriminate against same-sex couples. But they claim their religious beliefs still prohibit them from endorsing these ceremonies, so they will stop hosting all weddings in order to avoid future legal issues.

To this end, the Gortz Haus Gallery will also cease its practice of catering and creating floral arrangements for weddings off-site.

"Our faith hasn't changed," Betty Odgaard told the Register. "Of course, it's kind of a crushing blow because that's a major part of our business and weddings are so absolutely gorgeous in that place."

Iowa passed an antidiscrimination law in 2007, which outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Iowa Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage to be legal in 2009.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.