GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A wedding venue in Grand Rapids that will not serve LGBTQ couples has been cited by the city.
An investigation into Broadway Avenue, which opened this summer, found that it is violating the city’s human rights ordinance, a Grand Rapids spokesperson said in a statement.
Specifically, the city says the wedding venue is violating section 9.968 of the ordinance and “adopted, enforced, or employed a policy or requirement, or published, posted, broadcasted, or distributed an advertisement, sign notice, or solicitation which discriminates, or suggested, supported, or affirmed discrimination, in the provision of public accommodations.”
According to the ordinance, which was expanded in 2019, violations are punishable by a fine of up to $500. It also says every day a violation happens counts as a new violation.
Grand Rapids’ Office of Equity and Engagement started investigating after the city received multiple complaints. The venue was issued a municipal civil infraction citation on Sept. 30.
When News 8 went to the venue on Wednesday, co-owner Nick Natale said he didn’t know his venue was cited. He did not have further comment.
The city would not comment further, “due to the potential for future litigation in the 61st District Court.”
An Instagram post from the businesses on its policies on LGBTQ weddings sparked backlash and protests from the community in July.
“We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Those are our beliefs, what we grew up with and that’s how we run our house, how we run our marriage. So now that we’re opening a business, we are going to continue that,” Hannah Natale, one of the owners, told News 8 back in July.
Hannah Natale and her husband, Nick Natale, said they would not host weddings for same-sex couples or transgender couples.
David Kallman, the attorney for the venue, said he will be urging the city’s attorneys to dismiss the case. He also said his clients are ready to fight it.
“We’re prepared to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if we have to. If … the city wants this fight, they’ve got it,” Kallman said.
He said the city is violating his clients’ first amendment right. He also said the city is not claiming any LGBTQ couple was turned away.
“This is not a situation that’s involving discrimination against somebody because of their sexual orientation. This is about my clients’ right to freely exercise their religious beliefs,” Kallman said. “There’s been no actual discrimination against any person. … my clients have made some statements about their religious faith and beliefs, that’s not discriminating against anybody. That’s just a statement of their beliefs.”
He argued the city is picking sides.
“Not only is there now a protection under the city ordinance for the same-sex individuals or couples that may want to use my clients’ facility, but there’s also a … protected category for religion,” he said. “You now have two protected categories that are clashing here. So it’s apparent that the city appears to be picking sides.”
Kallman also pointed to the fact that the venue is willing to host other events for people who LGBTQ, just not weddings.