As I’ve been saying, as the fight for marriage equality heats up, and as more and more places around the world, and here at home, begin legalizing same-sex marriage, we are going to see stronger resistance from those who want to use their so-called faith to guide law.
Like in Iowa, where, by the way, marriage equality is legal, Lee Stafford and his fiancé Jared Ellars had booked the Hotel Pattee for their wedding, but the venue suddenly closed. Lee and Jared scrambled to find a new place for their wedding, and came across the Gortz Haus in Grimes. The men toured the facility together, and at the end of the tour they were asked if the wedding was to be a gay wedding.
My stock answer is, “All weddings are gay affairs, aren’t?”
But the owner, Betty Odgaard, wondered if it was a ceremony for two men, and when Lee said ‘Yes’ she said ‘No’.
"It's not from an angry place," said Betty Odgaard, who says she’s a Mennonite. She says both she and her husband operate their business on religious principles. "That decision is based on our religious beliefs. We want to honor that. We want people to know that is our stand that comes from our faith, our convictions. I think we should just stand by that no matter what."
"The fact is [Odgaard] discriminated against us based on our sexual orientation. Iowa code says if you have a public accommodation, you can't discriminate based on sexual orientation."—Lee Stafford
And you can’t and you shouldn’t, but, again, I have a solution to the problem: advertize your business as one that does not serve the LGBT community. Hang a sign, place an ad, post it on a website. Let everyone know that you will not allow your public business to be rented to gay and lesbian couples.
If you wish to discriminate for any reason, let us know, and we’ll go elsewhere; as I hope would everyone else.
That’s Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal, so I was shocked to hear that story. Not so much this next one … because it takes place in Texas.
Monico Ramirez and Jonathan Luna plan to get married in the near future and began looking for places to hold their reception. They contacted an event venue called Grace Gardens and asked about holding a reception, a party, not a wedding, but were denied.
“I went to check out Grace Gardens," Ramirez said. "It was absolutely beautiful, and we decided we wanted to have it there."
Ramirez and Luna began going over contract details with a staff employee, and that's when they informed the employee that they planned to have a same-sex reception.
"She just looked at us weird," Ramirez said. "She took us to a lobby, and told us she had to go speak with a manager, we stayed there 15 minutes. She came out and said 'I'm sorry guys, but we are not allowed to have any services for same-sex marriage.'"
Except the two men were not planning a wedding at the venue, they were planning a party, a reception. And even if they were planning some sort of wedding ceremony, what right does the business owner have in deciding who can and cannot use their facilities.
Open to the public means just that.
“When she told me that, I felt like somebody was throwing a bucket of water on me, it was kind of sad and embarrassing. I don't think it's right to be discriminated like that."—Monico Ramirez
Again, I say to Grace Gardens, hang a sign, put up a billboard, take out an ad where you say, plainly and simply, that while you are a public business you don’t cater to the gay public.
Let us know, and we’ll make a point of taking our money elsewhere.
That said, before some of you get your panties in a bunch and tell me that either place has the right to refuse services to anyone, just substitute the words gay couple with Black couple, Jewish couple, Baptist couple, Menonite couple. Then if you don’t have a problem with it, well, shut up anyway.
Or gnaw on this one: what would you think about a wedding venue, open to the public, but owned by a gay couple, who refused to cater straight weddings and receptions? Would that be right? Fair?
Discrimination is discrimination, in Iowa, in Texas, anywhere, and if you don’t take a stand against it, one day you might be the one turned away from a business and you’ll be asking for help and won’t get it.