Main | Tuesday, October 08, 2013

IOWA: Art Gallery Sues Civil Rights Commission Over Hosting Gay Wedding

A Christian-owned art gallery has sued the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, claiming that being "forced" to host a same-sex wedding violates their religious liberty.
The 11-count lawsuit by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty was filed late Monday in Polk County Circuit Court and wants the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to rule the refusal of Betty and Richard Odgaard is not a violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Additionally, lawyers for the Odgaards want the commission to declare the couple didn’t engage in discrimination and award them “nominal damages” for the loss of their free speech and free exercise of rights under both the Iowa and U.S. constitutions. The Odgaards’ own and operate the Gortz Haus Gallery, a 77-year-old church they’ve turned into an art gallery after they purchased it in 2002. The Mennonite couple offers wedding services at the building but refused to host a one for a same-sex couple from Des Moines who tried to rent the building in early August.
Iowa is one of the 21 states that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation by businesses licensed to serve the public. Read the full lawsuit here.  The LGBT rights group One Iowa has responded via press release:
An individual should not be prohibited from enjoying basic freedoms because of someone else's religious beliefs. One Iowa absolutely respects the faith traditions and the deeply held convictions of Mr. and Mrs. Odgaard. However, the Gortz Haus is a public accommodation, not a religious institution. Because the Odgaards offer a service to the public--and that service includes the use of their facilities for civil marriages and receptions--they cannot and should not deny this service to someone based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity according to the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Ultimately, all citizens are best served by the provision of civil marriages that receive recognition, respect and equal treatment without regard to the gender or sexual orientation of the marital partners.

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