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Gay Couple Files Complaint Against Gortz Haus Wedding Venue

The owners of a Grimes wedding venue say they won't allow same-sex marriage ceremonies at the facility because of their religious beliefs. One Iowa says that violates the law.

Gortz Haus, a gallery and popular wedding venue in Grimes.
Gortz Haus, a gallery and popular wedding venue in Grimes.

A same sex couple is filing a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission against a Grimes wedding venue after the owners declined to host the ceremony based on their religious beliefs.

And the advocacy group One Iowa issued a statement that Iowa businesses cannot deny service to someone because of sexual orientation.

According to WHO-TV.com, Lee Stafford and his partner talked with Gortz Haus owner Betty Odgaard about having their wedding at the Grimes facility, but were turned away once Odgaard realized it would be a same-sex ceremony.

Gortz Haus owner Odgaard told WHO, “I’m not anti them as human beings at all. I would love to become friends with them. You can't change what you believe. You can't undo it.” 

Stafford and his partner say they hold no ill will toward the Odgaards and do not condone any of the hateful remarks others have sent to the business owners. However, Stafford says they were discriminated against and that’s not right.

One Iowa issued a statement saying that the Iowa Civil Rights Act, says it is "unfair or discriminatory" to deny services of public accommodations because of sexual orientation.

One Iowa Executive Director Donna Red Wing said in a statement:

"Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in June, and the Varnum v. Brien ruling over four years ago that paved the way for marriage equality in Iowa, we appreciate that this nation and the state of Iowa have experienced real change that may be challenging for some people.

When the Jim Crow laws were overturned decades ago, the culture didn't change overnight even though the law did. Today, same-sex couples can legally marry in Iowa and have the same federal recognition as non-gay married spouses. So, while the law has changed we understand that the culture will take a little longer. 

One Iowa respects and appreciates that Mr. and Mrs. Odgaard are Iowans with deeply held religious beliefs and convictions. At the same time, we need to separate our respect for the Odgaards' religious beliefs from the Iowa civil rights code. While religious institutions are protected by religious freedoms, it's important to note that the Gortz Haus is a public venue. It cannot be confused with a religious institution. The Odgaards provide a service to the public that must accommodate all Iowans, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community." 

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