Story at a glance
- Broadway Avenue, a wedding venue in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been cited for violating the city’s human rights ordinance by allegedly refusing to marry same-sex couples.
- The venue’s owners in July had said in a social media post that hosting same-sex wedding ceremonies would be inconsistent with their religious beliefs.
- The post has been heavily criticized by social media users that have accused the venue of discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community and a petition for the city to enforce the ordinance and cite Broadway Avenue has collected 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 marriage ceremonies.
Grand Rapids officials in a citation issued earlier this week said the owners of Broadway Avenue, an event space that opened earlier this year, had violated a section of the city’s human rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression by refusing to marry same-sex couples.
In a post on 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 remain true to our Christian faith and this includes marriage,” the pair wrote.
When the Natales were asked in a comment on the post to clarify how their religious beliefs would impact their business logistically, they responded: “The two people that are getting married at our venue must be a man and a woman.”
The response drew swift backlash online from social media users that accused the couple of discriminating against LGBTQ+ people.
“That was a lot of words for ‘we’re homophobic,’” one Facebook user commented on the post.
A petition calling for the city to enforce the human rights ordinance and cite Broadway Avenue has collected more than 13,000 signatures.
“We hope to affirm that the City of Grand Rapids will remain an inclusive business environment where we do not have to tolerate discriminatory policies, nor do business with discriminatory people in our community,” the petition states.
In an interview with Nexstar-affiliate WOOD-TV in Michigan, the couple said the venue’s policy also extends to transgender people because they believe marriage is a union between only “biological” men and women.
“Our decision is not rooted in hate towards the community,” Nick Natale told the outlet. “It’s just our belief on 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’re going to vigorously oppose this,” Kallman said. “They’re totally unspecific here of what it is they’re claiming my client did, but the bottom line is we’re going to oppose any claim we committed any wrong here.”
Kallman argued that Broadway Avenue cannot be legally cited because, while the Natales have stated publicly that they will not allow same-sex couples to marry at their venue, they have not actually denied any customers on those grounds.
A similar case involving two Michigan businesses went before the state Supreme Court in July, with Justice Elizabeth Clement, writing for the court’s majority, ruling that a state law against sex discrimination also protects individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation.