GRIMES, Iowa — A Christian couple in Iowa fears that they may have to eventually shut down their business after two homosexual men filed a formal complaint this month over their company policy regarding same-sex “marriage.”
Dick and Betty Odgaard operate The Gortz Haus Gallery, a bistro, floral and arts shop, and wedding facility in Grimes, Iowa. The location formerly served as a Lutheran church for over 60 years, and is now a popular location for couples to tie the knot.
According to reports, Lee Stafford and his partner Jared recently visited the The Gortz Haus Gallery to obtain information about using the facility for their upcoming ceremony. However, when Dick Odgaard realized that the men were seeking to use the premises to host a homosexual “wedding,” he informed them that the venue does not host same-sex ceremonies. His wife Betty explained to local television station KCCI that the company policy reflects their Christian faith.
“That decision is based on our religious beliefs,” she stated. “And we want to honor that. We want people to know that is our stand, [which] comes from our faith and convictions, and I think we should stand by those [convictions] no matter what.”
Betty also told reporters that she advised the men that she and her husband would be willing to provide other services, such as offering flowers or cake, but that Stafford and his partner could not exchange vows on the premises.
“I would serve them in every other way; we simply don’t want to take part. … It just comes down to that final line of taking their vows in our facility,” she told reporter Billy Hallowell. “I do not hate these people and they have the right to do what they want to do under the law and in humanity.”
Same-sex “marriage” was legalized in Iowa in 2009 via a unanimous decision by the state Supreme Court.
After word of the incident at The Gortz Haus Gallery became public knowledge, the couple states that they began receiving harsh and angry emails.
“You are mean, rude, selfish, [expletive] racist sons of [expletive] from Hell,” one message stated. “[Expletive] your God. [Expletive] your religion.”
“Betty, you’re very old and almost dead,” another email read. “How do you both feel knowing that America and the world will be a better place without you?”
Two clients also canceled their reservations, and several others have asked for their money back. However, other community members have been largely supportive of the Christian couple.
Nonetheless, the Odgaards state that they now fear that the matter may run them out of business as Stafford and his partner have filed a formal complaint with the Iowa Human Rights Commission, alleging that The Gortz Haus Gallery violated state law by declining to facilitate their same-sex ceremony.
“[They] discriminated against us based on our sexual orientation, and Iowa code says that if you have a public accommodation, you can’t discriminate based on sexual orientation,” Stafford told reporters.
“Can’t I have my beliefs without being ostracized for that?” Betty Odgaard asked. “I think that I have my right, too, to stand firm on my convictions and beliefs.”
Stafford and his partner have since found another location at which to host their ceremony.