CIVIL RIGHTS: Gay Wedding Venue Lawsuit Filed

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The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is facing a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Grimes couple, claiming the commission is trying to force them to violate their religious beliefs by allowing a same-sex couple to marry at their art gallery.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, on behalf of Betty and Richard Odgaard the owners of Görtz Haus Gallery in Grimes. The art gallery is operated in a former church and plays hosts to events such as weddings.

In August, a same-sex couple was told they could not hold their wedding at the Görtz Haus because gay marriage was against the religious convictions of the Odgaards, who are Mennonite.

The same-sex couple says the Görts Haus is a public venue and they should not have been discriminated against. They filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Right Commission claiming the denial violated their civil rights under Iowa code 216.7(1) which says it is “unfair and discriminatory” to deny services of public accommodation based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission says it will not comment on the pending lawsuit, but says in general it works to remedy complaints and some cases have resulted in economic compensation for wronged parties and policy changes.