Gay Wedding Lawsuit Prompts Iowa Business To Stop Offering Marriage Services

Gortz Haus Gallery, a flower shop, restaurant, and wedding venue in Grimes, Iowa, will no longer be offering marriage services. The Christian owners of the facility made the decision to stop offering wedding services after finding themselves embroiled in a gay marriage legal battle.

Betty and Dick Odgaard, the Christian owners of Gortz Haus Gallery, operated the business for 13 years before they made national headlines in 2013. The owners opted against hosting the gay marriage ceremony for Lee Stafford and Jared Ellars and sparked a nationwide debate about same-sex marriage and religious freedom in the process.

Betty Odgaard had something to say about the controversy sparked by the Gortz Haus Gallery refusal to host the gay marriage of Jarend Ellars and Lee Stafford.

“It was just so hateful and so awful and personally it took me down. I didn’t want to be on this Earth anymore. It destroyed me. I was ready to quit. I wanted to move out of the town. I knew that this gallery that we had built together would never be the same again.”

Betty Odgaard is the daughter of a Mennonite pastor and Dick Odgaard is a devout Lutheran. The emails the Gortz Haus Galley owners received after refusing to host the gay marriage, and subsequently shared with The Blaze, shed light on why the Christian owners felt threatened after the story about their business went viral.

One email sent to the Iowa Christians reportedly stated that the Odgaard family is “doomed” and “finished.” The email went on to say, “You are mean, rude, selfish, mother f****r racist sons of b*****s from hell. F**k you, f**k your God, f**k your religion.”

Another email sender who identified himself as Micky said, “Betty, you’re very old and almost dead. How do you both feel, knowing that America, and the world, will be a better place without you?”

Gay marriage and LGBT activists reportedly organized boycotts of the Gortz Haus Gallery.

Dick Odgaard voiced out his opinion about the turmoil surrounding their decision to turn down hosting a gay wedding at the Iowa business:

“Psychologically, when you get beat up like we did. It takes a lot of hugs to neutralize that. So, as much as you appreciate [the community support], what you remember at the end of the day is all the ugly.”

Lee Stafford and Jared Ellars filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission after the Odgaard refusal to host their gay wedding. In return, the Christian business owners filed a lawsuit against the state of Iowa “to get their liberties back.” The Gortz Haus Gallery owners were represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The lawsuit against the state was ultimately dismissed pending the outcome of the administrative process pertaining to the civil rights hearing. A “conciliatory agreement” was reached and the Grimes, Iowa business owners paid $5,000 to the gay couple, after being found guilty of discrimination.

Once the 2014 wedding season contracts had been fulfilled, the Christian couple decided they would not longer provide wedding services. Concerns that gay weddings would once again be requested, and fatigue from the legal battle, were reportedly the deciding factors in the business decision.

“The precedent had been set,” Dick Odgaard said. “Obviously, everybody knew where we stood, so we would be targets for a sting type of a deal, so we just decided to get clear out of the business which was financially very hurtful — painful, but we just had to do it.”

The Gortz Haus Gallery, once the home to the St. Peter Lutheran Church, still features a flower shop and restaurant. The business has been hurt by eliminating the wedding services, the Christian couple said. “Weddings were the larger income stream of course and now we have to just rely on lunches and flowers,” Betty Odgaard said. “And the lunch business went down by about half when all of this came out, so that’s been suffering quite a bit, there were a lot of boycotts out not to come to our place.”

What do you think about the Gortz Haus Gallery decision to stop offering wedding services to avoid being faced with a gay wedding request again, and the threatening emails sent to the Christian owners?

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