ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The owners of a lodge in central Minnesota have agreed to pick up the tab for the wedding and reception of a same-sex couple they initially turned away.
Cole Frey and Adam Block have settled their discrimination complaint filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights against the owners of Rice Creek Hunting and Recreation, Inc., which operates a lodge used for weddings in Little Falls.
Frey, 20, said he and Block, 18, complained to the Department of Human Rights after the venue's owners rejected their business because they were gay. Rice Creek employees initially told the couple the date for their wedding and reception was open, but then changed their minds.
"Because they don't condone same sex marriage and they weren't ready for that yet," Frey said he was told by Rice Creek on the phone.
The Department of Human Rights investigated and determined there was probable cause of discrimination by the lodge owners due to sexual orientation.
"This is the first public accommodation case for the department related to same-sex marriage, and it serves as a reminder that businesses may not deny services based on a person's sexual orientation just as they can't deny services on the basis of race or gender," Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said.
The department helped negotiate a settlement in which Rice Creek agreed to pay for the couple's wedding and reception at another location as well as accommodations for out-of-town guests. Frey said the tab comes to around $8,500.
The gay marriage law passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2013 provides specific exemptions for religious entities from taking part in same-sex union, but it doesn't exempt individuals, businesses and nonprofits from non-discrimination laws based on religious beliefs regarding same-sex marriage.
The attorney for the lodge owners, Paul Rogosheske, says they realized they made a mistake in refusing to accommodate the couple.
"We did everything we could to remedy it," Rogosheske said. "We wish them the best."
The Minnesota Family Council, which opposes same-sex marriage, said the government shouldn't force family businesses to participate in ceremonies that violate their beliefs.
"The Minnesota Human Rights Department's treatment of Minnesota families is deplorable. They are choosing to enforce the same-sex 'marriage' law in an unconstitutional manner, targeting Minnesota business owners and, to top it all off, claiming victory for settling with a hunting preserve owner who should have never had to face a human rights case against him," Council CEO John Helmberger said in a statement.
Block said he was shocked and confused when they were turned away at Rice Creek, but said there will be a learning curve as the gay marriage law maturates.
"We need to keep it in mind that it's the law, Block said.
He and Frey will be married Aug. 29 at Camp Ripley in Little Falls.