LGBTQ+ org files formal complaint against Michigan wedding venue that banned LGBTQ+ couples

Author: John Russell

A Michigan LGBTQ+ organization has filed a formal complaint against a wedding venue it says discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community in violation of state law.

As the Holland Sentinel notes, the venue, owned by Mitch and Kelli VanOverloop, spells its policy out on its own website: “Because God has ordained marriage and defined it as the covenant relationship between a man, a woman and Himself, the Old Wooden Barn will only recognize marriages between a biological man and a biological woman. Further, the staff of the Old Wooden Barn shall only participate in and host weddings between a man and a woman. We thank you for respecting our Christian family values.”

The Surfus Foundation alleges that the policy barring same-sex weddings is “a clear violation of ‘public accommodations’ provisions” of Michigan’s 2023 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act expansion. That bill, signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) last year, added the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to Michigan’s 1976 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA). The law forbids discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation within businesses, government buildings, and educational facilities on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, marital status — and now, LGBTQ+ identity.

In its letter, the Surfus Foundation also cites the Michigan Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Rouch World v. Michigan Department of Civil Rights, which established that ELCRA’s ban on discrimination on the basis of “sex” applied to cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“This business is similar to Rouch World as a business that provides wedding event services,” the organization wrote of The Old Wooden Barn, “and as such would be in violation of” Rouch World v. Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

The organization asked that the Michigan AG’s office and the Department of Civil Rights enforce the state’s laws against anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

According to the Sentinel, the Old Wooden Barn’s owners said they are “discussing things further with their lawyer.”

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Actual Story on LGBTQ Nation
Author: John Russell

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