Iowa Gallery Stops Hosting Weddings To Avoid Serving Same-Sex Couples

CREDIT: Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Betty and Richard Odgaard, owners of the Gortz Haus Gallery

Same-sex couples have won another victory against discrimination — this time in Iowa. The Gortz Haus Gallery in Grimes, Iowa has settled a complaint with a same-sex couple whose wedding it declined to host, dropped its lawsuit challenging Iowa’s nondiscrimination law, and agreed not to host weddings for any couple moving forward.

The Gortz Haus used to bill itself as “the perfect venue for your wedding ceremony.” When Lee Stafford and Jared Ellers decided to take the facility up on that offer, Mennonite owners Richard and Betty Odgaard, refused based on their religious beliefs. Stafford and Ellers filed a complaint, because Iowa state law prohibits such discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Odgaards, with support from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, proceeded to file their own suit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, claiming that those nondiscrimination protections violated their religious liberty.

The Des Moines Register now reports that all of the litigation has come to an end. The Odgaards agreed to pay the couple $5,000 to settle the suit, which allows them to deny any wrongdoing under Iowa law. They also agreed that they could no longer discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, which means they will no longer host any weddings in their gallery, which used to be a Lutheran church, nor provide catering or flowers for other weddings. Likewise, they have dropped their suit against the state.

The litigation “had to end,” Betty Odgaard told the Register, “and there was not going to be any good ending.” The weddings were a significant source of revenue, she admitted, but “our faith hasn’t changed,” and it seems they stood to lose more from future discrimination complaints than they will from ending their wedding business.

The Gortz Haus joins the growing list of wedding vendors across the country that have unsuccessfully fought discrimination complaints when they refuse to serve same-sex couples.