Michigan wedding venue cited for allegedly refusing to marry same-sex couples, violating city’s human rights ordinance – The Hill

The story at a glance

  • Broadway Avenue, a wedding venue in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was cited for violating the city’s human rights ordinance by allegedly refusing to marry same-sex couples.

  • The venue’s owners had said in a July social media post that holding same-sex wedding ceremonies would be incompatible with their religious beliefs.

  • The post was heavily criticized by social media users who accused the venue of discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community and a petition asking the city to enforce the ordinance and cite Broadway Avenue garnered more than 13,000 signatures.

A wedding venue in Grand Rapids, Michigan has been cited by city officials for allegedly refusing to host same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Grand Rapids officials, in a citation released earlier this week, said owners of Broadway Avenue, an event space that opened earlier this year, violated a section of the city’s human rights ordinance. city ​​that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. by refusing to marry same-sex couples.

In a post to the venue’s Facebook and Instagram pages in July, Broadway Avenue owners Nick and Hannah Natale – a husband and wife couple – wrote that their business is a reflection of the “values ​​and beliefs we hold from our faith in Jesus Christ”.

“As a result, we would like our business to stay true to our Christian faith and that includes marriage,” the couple wrote.

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When the Natales were asked in a comment on the post to clarify how their religious beliefs impacted their business logistically, they replied, “The two people getting married in our room must be a man and a woman. woman.”

The response prompted a swift online reaction from social media users who accused the couple of discriminating against LGBTQ+ people.

“That was a lot of words for ‘we are homophobic,'” one Facebook user commented on the post.

A petition calling on the city to enforce the human rights ordinance and cite Broadway Avenue has garnered more than 13,000 signatures.

“We hope to affirm that the City of Grand Rapids will remain an inclusive business environment where we will not have to tolerate discriminatory policies, or do business with discriminatory people in our community,” the petition reads.

In an interview with Michigan’s Nexstar affiliate WOOD-TV, the couple said the venue’s policy also extends to transgender people, as they believe marriage is a union between “biological” men and women.

“Our decision is not rooted in hatred toward the community,” Nick Natale told the outlet. “It’s just our belief about marriage.”

David Kallman, an attorney for the Natales, in a statement to MLive.com, said they were prepared to take the case to the state Supreme Court if necessary.

“We will vigorously oppose it,” Kallman said. “They’re absolutely not specific here about what they claim my client did, but the bottom line is that we’re going to oppose any claims we’ve made here.”

Kallman argued that Broadway Avenue cannot be legally quoted because, although the Natales have publicly stated that they will not allow same-sex couples to marry on their site, they have not in fact turned away any clients. for these reasons.

A similar case involving two Michigan companies went to the state Supreme Court in July, with Justice Elizabeth Clement, writing for the majority of the court, ruling that a state sex discrimination law also protects women. individuals against discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

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