US: Couple sued over gay wedding refusal take action
Tue, 22 Oct 2013
A US couple who are being sued for refusing to rent out their venue for a gay wedding are launching their own legal case to protect their rights.
Dick and Betty Odgaard have filed a lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in response to a complaint by a gay couple who wanted to use their art gallery for a same-sex wedding earlier this year.
Lee Stafford and his partner Jared claim they have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Mr and Mrs Odgaard are Mennonites and believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. They own the Görtz Haus Gallery in Iowa.
Now they have filed their own complaint saying that if the Commission forces them to go against their beliefs and host gay weddings this would be a violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
The lawsuit includes information about the “devastating” backlash they received over the issue, including threatening emails and phone calls.
Betty Odgaard, 61, told a local newspaper: “It really set me back. I was amazed at the amount of hatred, this kind of ridiculous hatred.”
The Becket Fund, a religious liberty organisation, is backing the Odgaard’s legal case.
Spokeswoman Emily Hardman said people should be “concerned” about the situation which would “force someone to participate against their conscience”.
She added: “This gallery is a way they express their faith, and in a free and diverse society, no one should be forced into something that violates their faith.”
Mrs Odgaard said at the time of the incident that their stand comes from their faith and convictions.
She said: “I think we should just stand by that no matter what”.
She added, “it just comes down to that final line of taking their vows in our facility”.
Gay marriage has been legal in Iowa since 2009.