Betty and Dick Odgaard, owners of Görtz Haus Gallery in Grimes, Iowa, made national headlines this summer when they refused to allow a gay couple to get married at their popular wedding venue — and now, amid threats and potential legal ramifications for their actions, they’re fighting back.
The couple filed suit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission on Oct. 7 and claims that any attempt to force them to host same-sex unions is a violation of their religious beliefs and of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
Since the Odgaards, who are Mennonites, turned away Lee Stafford and his fiance Jared, they have experienced a flurry of negative responses and threats from those opposed to their decision. TheBlaze previously interviewed the family in August about the hatred and anger they have experienced in the wake of what they call a faith-based decision.
Watch the family’s story, below:
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a conservative legal firm, is handling the couple’s case against the state. The group told TheBlaze in a statement on Wednesday that the lawsuit was waged an effort to seek protection for the Odgaard family and to prevent them from being “forced to facilitate a religious ceremony against their religious convictions.”
The effort seeks to stem a claim that was already filed by Lee and Jared with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. With that claim apparently in process, the law firm is hoping to protect the family against any mandate from the government that will require them to host gay weddings.
“Iowa’s judiciary has a long history of robustly protecting individual rights and we hope that they will do the same for Betty and Richard,” the Becket Fund said.
While Betty and Dick were unavailable for comment this week, the firm provided statements to TheBlaze on the couple’s behalf.
“This has been emotionally devastating to both of us. It is hard to understand the hateful backlash. One of the hardest things we have ever gone through,” Betty said of the fiery aftermath the family has endured. “The unkind things written in blogs, e-mails and letters have been deeply hurtful.”
The Odgaards continue to say that they have no ill will toward any parties and that they have friends and acquaintances that are gay.
“All we want is not to be forced by the government to host a religious ceremony that violates our faith,” she added.
As TheBlaze previously reported, Iowa law does prohibit service refusals based on sexual orientation, but religious sentiment often makes these scenarios more complicated. If the law requires the couple to comply and marry gay couples, they previously told us that they will stay true to their convictions and will simply stop performing ceremonies at the location all together.
There’s no telling how the case will impact business at Görtz Haus Gallery, but as of late summer, the family told TheBlaze that at least two weddings were cancelled.
“We don’t want to shut our doors. But financially it could shut it down,” Betty said in August. “We’ve never had anything like this happen.”
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