GRIMES, Iowa — After a controversial lawsuit, the owners of Gortz Haus will no longer host weddings at their venue.
“We are definitely making a sacrifice for our convictions. It affects the value of our business,” says Richard Odegaard.
In Decemeber of last year, Betty and Richard Odgaard agreed on a settlement based on a lawsuit filed by a gay couple wanting to get married at the historic church turned bistro and art gallery. However, the Odgaards would not agree to welcome the unity of same-sex marriages at their venue. As a result, they chose to no longer entertain weddings for all couples.
“We could either maintain a position to be at risk for future or subsequent claims of discrimination or we could get clear out of serving the wedding industry. That’s what we chose to do.”
In 2013, Lee Stafford and Jared Ellers filed a compliant with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission alleging the public venue cannot discriminate against religious beliefs. Odgaard says he did not discriminate but rather refused to participate in a ceremony he says should only be between a man and a woman. In fact, the Odgaard’s say they’ve had gay and lesbian employees and also have gay and lesbian friends but simply don’t condone the option of marriage.
LGBT activists say while the venue’s decision to turn away the couple was unfair, there was a fair decision made in the outcome.
“If they are going to discriminate against one group of people, the same gendered couples, then they really can’t be open for business for other couples,”says executive director of One Iowa, Donna Red Wing.
Red Wing says there have been positives in this situation and applauds the couple who chose to file the lawsuit.
“The fact that they did push this and file suit, I think showed courage and they brought this issue out into the open. A lot of people have been talking about this for a long time.”
Gortz Haus attracts 15 to 25 weddings annually, a major source of revenue. However, Odgaard is willing to take the financial hit based on what he believes in.
“During the course of the time our belief and faith has not changed. The state law has not changed so we had a choice to make,” says Odgaard.
Gortz Haus’ art gallery and bistro remains open.
The money the couple received from the settlement will go towards LGBT programs in schools across the state.