Mennonite Wedding Venue Files Counter Suit to Avoid Being Forced to Host Same-Sex ‘Weddings’

Gortz Haus Gallery wsGRIMES, Iowa — A Mennonite couple in Iowa has filed suit against the state’s Civil Rights Commission as they fear pending punishment for declining to host a same-sex ‘wedding’ at their business.

As previously reported, 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.

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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?”

“I’m a Christian and I’m ashamed of you,” a third claimed. “I know [who] Christ is. …  He ate with prostitutes. … You just prostitute His word to promote your bigotry.”

Then, Stafford and his partner filed a formal complaint with the Iowa Civil 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.

But now, through the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, the Odgaards have filed a counter lawsuit against the Civil Rights Commission, which may demand that the couple pay punitive damages for declining to host the ceremony.

“The Odgaards adhere to the traditional Mennonite belief that marriage is a religious covenant ordained by God that can only exist between a man and a woman,” the suit outlines. “[P]ublicly associating with a wedding ceremony that violates their beliefs would send a message to others who share their beliefs, including some of their employees, that those beliefs are untrue or unworthy of devotion, and thereby cause those others to sin.”

“The Odgaards may be exposed to financial punishment and other forms of official coercion for refusing to abandon their religious convictions to comply with the ICRC’s dictates,” it further explains. “The Odgaards have always intended to use the gallery consistent with their religious beliefs. They would sooner shut down the gallery than violate those beliefs.”

Following the incident, the two men found another location willing to host their ceremony. The Odgaards state that there are over 50 wedding venues in the county to utilize for events.

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  • Edwin

    I believe that people should have the right to stand for their believe which have been the norm for hundreds of years. The constitution protects everyone’s faith, why should they bend their faith now? I am a Christian and the spiritual law tells me not to murder, if the man law changes and say kill. However, I will have to follow my belief and faith in Jesus Christ. Or should I go and kill like those extremist Islamic believers? No! I shall love my neighbor as myself. I applaud the courage of these people for standing up to the bulling homosexual activists the that are out to hurt true faithful Christians. If you want to get married,great, there are tons of places you can go. Why for people to accept you? Isn’t what your are doing to these people a counter hate legalized crime?

    • kim

      I agree with Edwin. I am happy to see them stand up for their beliefs. God Bless them!

  • Joseph Lam

    Over 50 venues for marriage in the county. Of course, this abomination in the sight of God “just happens” to want to use the Odgaard’s facility? Sounds like the Odgaard’s were targeted. More than one time at different facilities for different people would constitute a movement, in effect, a purge. We (Christians) have always had this in the back of our mind as a possible scenario. It has happened in the past and will continue to happen until Christ returns.
    For the record I am a Christian and love my fellow man/woman as Christ commanded. BUT homosexuality is a sin, a sin among hundreds, if not thousands of other sins possible. I, as for all Christians, have been delivered from these sins by the Blood of Christ. The LGBT community act as if they are the only ones that are being asked to repent and “give something up”. All Christians have had to repent of their sins. And one last thing—Once this has happened, this saving grace, we (Christians) cannot condone sin as we will now be held accountable before God.
    To the LGBT community (if you’re reading):
    Asking us to condone your sin (homosexuality) is endangering our relationship with God. It is that way with all people who we come in contact with who sin. We love you, we will help you, but we cannot condone your sin. Please respect that. Otherwise, you’re asking us to endanger our salvation just so you can do what you want. Why not instead seek out like minded people/groups/facilities etc, instead of trying to proselytize Christians into your lifestyle? Humanity does that anyway. Always has. Love you and praying for you.

  • Billy Trooper

    Get a life you religious pompous jerks. Its the 21st Century Let them get married. Its none of your business what they do in thier own bedroom.

    • judith

      It’s sad to say and worst to know that you’re the one who has no life right now and if you continue in this manner without repenting, you’ll find out when you open your eyes in hell! It’s not “religious” it’s truth! May God help you some way, some how! Amen!

    • m saeger

      Then let them find a bedroom in an establishment that does not value Christian beliefs.
      That simple.

  • James


    Would Dick and Betty Odgaard have an easier time, legally, if they were to still offer the same services they do now (including flowers and cakes, .etc) but were still a Lutheran church? (If a church can do that) I think there’s U.S Constitutional law that would support them on this issue if they were still a church.

    Thank you.

  • Greddar

    Edwin actually you are correct…when we used to have the draft and the government told young men they had to go and kill Mennonite and Amish men would serve only in the medical corps to stay true to their beliefs of non killing. I wonder if the government would force them to kill today or it sexual and race identity politics and abortion the only concerns that matter

  • Rationalist

    Here’s what the gay rights agenda is really about…

    Demanding tolerance gave way to demanding equality which gave way to demanding recognition which is now giving way to demanding superiority.

    So much for the Stonewall excuse that all they wanted was to be “left alone”…

    Gay fascists won’t be satisfied until they’ve silenced every opposition – especially true born again Bible believing Christians…

    Examine evidence where Christianity is being intimidated through bullying, threats, intimidation, laws or lawsuits – Christian business owners who are approached by gay couples trying to force them into compromising their beliefs and then suing them when they won’t…gays picketing churches who’s ministers preach that homosexuality is a sin – does that sound like “tolerance” ?

    It’s happening more and more – so it’s not just about marriage equality anymore – it’s about eradicating any ideology that disagrees with homosexuality.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    • m saeger

      Rationalist: Excellent post.
      Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 also.

  • Tom Rath

    The State of Iowa cannot force them to host same-sex wedding ceremonies. They can only continue to sue or fine them (or revoke their business license) if they continue to host other weddings but refuse to host same-sex weddings in violation of the law.

    “Religious liberty” doesn’t give a for-profit business (a secular endeavor) the right to discriminate, and in no way does this law infringe upon the “religious liberty” of the business owners.

  • R W Gholston

    This article just goes to show that many on the left, and particularly gays, would rather be punitive and punish those with whom they disagree. This is not about the miniscule percentage of Americans who would rather have a partner of the same sex, (and be left alone) than it is about that same small percentage of Americans punishing those with whom they disagree, and taking punitive action to belittle, and cause anguish (and often financial ruin) to those who stand up for their beliefs. It used to be an axiom that “I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”. Sadly, that is no longer the case. It appears that in the new “Amerika” all must kowtow to DC, and forget their cherished beliefs, and the Bible.

  • robthom

    Basically this is what the gay marriage agenda is about.

    Its not about their rights or two people loving each other,
    it about establishing a legal angle that can be used by exhibitionist lib perverts to harras Christians.

  • Webb

    The homosexuals and their supportive liberal political partners are only doing the work of their father the Devil. We live in an evil age where vileness is reason for celebration.