Discrimination | Gay Marriage | Iowa

Religious Rights Group Files Suit To Defend Religious-Based Discrimination

Gortz Haus

A few months ago a gay couple in Iowa were turned away from an art gallery wedding venue that they wanted to use for their own wedding because their homosexuality violated the religious sensibilities of the Mennonite owners. A discrimination case was pursued by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

A few days ago the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an 11-count lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and wants the Commission to rule that the Odgaard's refusal to host a same-sex wedding in their public art gallery wedding venue was not a violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

A spokesperson for the Becket Fund engaged in some contradictions, claiming that they didn't want to eliminate homosexuality as a protected class, just to allow the Mennonite beliefs of the Osgaards to supersede the civil rights of Lee Stafford and his fiancee.

The spokesperson also said “To our knowledge, no Iowa or Federal court has ever forced anyone to participate in a religious activity against their will. Doing so now would abandon Iowa’s history of being the vanguard of protecting individual freedom, and out of line with state and federal law.” This is true that no state or federal law has forced people to unwillingly take part in a religious ceremony, but state and federal laws have ruled that public venues and public services cannot discriminate based on orientation, and venues that have discriminated have lost those legal battles.

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  1. This is interesting! thanks for sharing!
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    Posted by: Andrew | Oct 10, 2013 6:45:30 AM

  2. No one is asking them to "participate" in a wedding. They are being required to live up to their commitment under the law to provide their services equally to all of the general public.

    I get to the point where I just want to say to these people, "Grow up and get over yourself." Because that's what it is -- they're still stuck in the "me, me, me" stage of emotional development. (What is that -- about age two?)

    Posted by: Hunter | Oct 10, 2013 6:57:27 AM

  3. "By the power vested in me by the state of Iowa I now pronounce you married."

    Posted by: Bob | Oct 10, 2013 7:22:04 AM

  4. They certainly have a right to file suit and their chances of victory lay somewhere between slim & none!

    Posted by: dearcomrade | Oct 10, 2013 8:18:06 AM

  5. Because religious belief superseding the rights of others works so well in the Middle East.

    Posted by: yuninv | Oct 10, 2013 8:27:07 AM

  6. Since when do beliefs supersede rights or is is this simply a case of apples vs oranges?

    Posted by: Geoff | Oct 10, 2013 8:29:46 AM

  7. If you want to run a religious business, then ADVERTISE IT AS SUCH.

    This venue should be sued into oblivion for being bigoted.

    Case Effin closed.

    Posted by: Luyten | Oct 10, 2013 8:54:03 AM

  8. “...To our knowledge, no Iowa or Federal court has ever forced anyone to participate in a religious activity against their will..."

    Liar liar, magical underpants on fire;

    By rejecting the gay couple based on your discriminating religion You ARE FORCING the gay couple to participate in a religios activity; Religious Discrimination.

    It effects BOTH parties...not just the one.

    Posted by: bear | Oct 10, 2013 8:54:06 AM

  9. @ Bear

    ^ THIS

    Posted by: Luyten | Oct 10, 2013 8:55:11 AM

  10. If they'd denied access to the public venue to a Jewish couple that wanted to rent it for a marriage ceremony, it would have been the same thing. The bakery that closed in Oregon because they refused service based on their religious beliefs found out the hard way. Either they close their doors or provide the public access they're advertising.

    Or just post a sign saying "Go away. We don't serve your kind."

    Posted by: Michael Vilain | Oct 10, 2013 9:36:19 AM

  11. Churches are exempt from laws covering discrimination; businesses are not. Is that so difficult?

    Posted by: candideinnc | Oct 10, 2013 9:41:16 AM

  12. I support the right to Freedom Of Association, including the labor or business venue of American citizens.

    Those people should not be forced to associate with us or to work for us. By the same token we cannot be forced to give them business or serve them with our labor in their wants or needs.

    I do not understand why some gay people don't get this.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Oct 10, 2013 10:22:53 AM

  13. @ "I support the right to Freedom Of Association..."

    yeah, it used to be called segregation.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Oct 10, 2013 10:28:17 AM

  14. Hagatha - something tells me you aren't gay.

    Posted by: Mike | Oct 10, 2013 10:33:13 AM

  15. It's not even a church. It's an art gallery wedding venue (!) They're nuts if they think the law should back up their right to discriminate against one sexual orientation and not the other.

    Posted by: Tristram | Oct 10, 2013 10:35:30 AM

  16. and here we go again.......discrimination is discrimination....if you are a public business, you cannot pick and choose your customers...ie, that would mean folks could discriminate against Jews, Arabs, tattoos, etc.......and when their business goes belly down, they will blame the gay community............

    Posted by: Bernie | Oct 10, 2013 10:40:27 AM

  17. If the Osgaaards are to prove their religious values are being violated, they will have to prove that have always conducted business in complete accord with their mennonite beliefs. They have only hosted christian weddings. Only spouses who have accepted salvation through jesus and have chosen to be baptised. No divorced persons remarrying.

    Posted by: verbocityeric | Oct 10, 2013 11:02:43 AM

  18. If they win, it will indeed be a slippery slope to total discrimination in ALL areas, everyone will suffer.

    Posted by: jsb | Oct 10, 2013 11:58:03 AM

  19. When you run a public business, your religious--or any other personal beliefs--are irrelevant when they conflict with state law. Targeting one class of people for discrimination is against IA state law. If I were an anti-Mennonite business owner in IA, the same law would apply, and I'd fully expect to welcome their $ whatever my prejudices. End of story.

    Posted by: Ernie | Oct 10, 2013 12:28:22 PM

  20. I get the discrimination, and these people are bigots.. but I don't understand why they want to get married at a place that clearly doesn't like them. Just find another place..

    Posted by: Luke | Oct 10, 2013 1:12:17 PM

  21. Hagatha, If you open a business you must obtain a license to operate, that license includes adherence to the laws of the state, county, and city in which you operate. That includes the implicitly listed non-discrimination statutes. Most states require a statement or sign saying that they cannot discriminate based upon x,y,and z. These statutes are not discriminatory in that they apply equally to ALL businesses. The legal entity of the business has no beliefs and has to obey these laws. The owners may have beliefs, but the business has to obey those laws or it can be sued, picketed, and shut down. Even if the owners want to run it based upon some specific code of ethics, the company cannot discriminate. This is a level playing field for all businesses thus no business has an edge. Personally, I would not have anything to do with a company that discriminates against myself for being old, grey haired, hunchbacked, snaggletoothed, or young, pretty, blonde and stacked. We ran into this just this weekend, we were visiting with family and one member kept mentioning a restaurant whose owners are known to be anti-gay. Once we explained our issue with going there, she decided she would no longer go there either. She was not aware of the companies' political stance, but once it was pointed out that they had such a stance she decided it was incompatible with her beliefs therefore she would not support them any longer. So I do agree if they want to try to discriminate despite being against the law (I don't know how the law applies to large corporations in their ability to discriminate based upon the state of their incorporation v the state the franchisee is operating in) I will choose not to go them. I do know small businesses operating in a single entity are stuck with the anti-disciminatory law. This has nothing to do with gay marriage, it has to do with not treating gays, blacks, jews, arabs, asians, handicapped diffently than central American white, anglo-saxon, protestants are treated. I think pointing out that this event site is discriminatory and not following the law is appropriate, just as I would point out that a restaurant is not following health code, or a hotel not following fire code. However in any of these events I would never return to those locations. Simply not going there and not pointing out their deficiencies is not kind and respectful to other human beings who might attempt to go there and be harmed. So we have an obligation to society overall to point out political and business entities who are unfair, unsafe or otherwise behaving badly to help improve it for all.

    Posted by: sjaeger | Oct 10, 2013 1:31:28 PM

  22. Derrick - There is a huge difference between separatism and segregation. The government cannot enforce segregation. The government should not be able to punish separatism.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Oct 10, 2013 1:57:50 PM

  23. Bernie - It's not a "public business", it's a private business. They presumably own the land, the building, and their labor. If that house were on an easement or some other government reserve, if it were a concession in a park, then it would be different. But it's THEIR house and THEIR building and THEIR business.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Oct 10, 2013 2:00:08 PM

  24. If the Osgaaards are to prove their religious values are being violated, they will have to prove that have always conducted business in complete accord with their mennonite beliefs..........


    The supreme court opinion in Evans appears to disagree. Evans also argued that since the policy was inconsistent then it was illegitimate. The court ruled that it didn't matter, in essence that the BSA could make, change, or interpret its policy as it sees fit.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Oct 10, 2013 2:04:02 PM

  25. @Luke, you miss the point. Unless business owners advertise their bigotry (which would be to everyone's advantage) most people approach a venue with the good-faith belief that they will be respected and the laws of the state upheld. Obviously, once the bigots reveal their true colors, it's unlikely you'd want to support them even if they didn't turn you away. The point is that states with public accommodation non-discrimination laws want and expect their businesses to welcome all and will go after those who don't as espousing hospitality values at odds with those of the state. And it saves other customers unnecessary hassles when bigoted business owners are exposed.

    In this case it's an organization suing the state, seeking an exemption to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs, as if those biases are in a special category. They aren't. Bias is bias, discrimination is discrimination. IA doesn't want its businesses doing business that way.

    Posted by: Ernie | Oct 10, 2013 2:08:15 PM

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