The Gortz House, a gallery and bistro just outside Des Moines, Iowa, has informed a gay couple that they are not welcome to host their wedding there. The business advertises itself as “the perfect venue for your wedding ceremony,” but that was apparently not the case for Lee Stafford and his fiance, Jared. Stafford informed KCCI-TV that they were turned away, and owner Betty Odgaard explained that she felt her religious preferences took precedent over obeying state law:
ODGAARD: That decision was based on our religious beliefs. We want to honor that. We want people to know that is our stand that comes from our faith and convictions. I think we should just stand by that no matter what… Can I have my beliefs without being ostracized for that? I think that I have my right too, to stand firm to my convictions and beliefs.
Odgaard is allowed to believe whatever she wishes, but denying service to customers because of their sexual orientation is a clear violation of Iowa law, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations. The relevant provision reads:
161–10.2 (216) Discrimination prohibited. No person shall be discriminated against on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability by any public accommodation by:
10.2(2) Subjecting any individual to segregation or separate treatment in any matter related to that individual’s receipt of any disposition, service, financial aid, or benefit provided to other members of the general public.
Stafford said he intends to file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Meanwhile, Odgaard is upset that she has received “hateful, hurtful and threatening emails.”
This is just the latest example of businesses attempting to use religion to justify blatant illegal discrimination against LGBT people. In addition to vendors similarly discriminating in other states, an Iowa baker also refused to prepare a wedding cake for a same-sex couple two years ago.