Press Release

 

For Immediate Release: august 22, 2014

MDHR negotiates settlement agreement
with Same-Sex Couple, wedding venue that denied service

ST. PAUL, MN – Just in time for their August wedding, Cole Frey and his fiancé, a Minnesota same-sex couple, have settled their case against a Little Falls wedding venue that had refused to rent to them a few months earlier.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Human Rights Department announced a settlement agreement between Frey and LeBlanc’s Rice Creek Hunting and Recreation, Inc., that requires the venue to pay the costs associated with the couple’s wedding ceremony and reception. In addition, the venue’s owners apologized to the couple and agreed to comply with the Minnesota Human Rights Act in their future business dealings.

This is Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ first same-sex wedding case involving discrimination in public accommodation based on sexual orientation since same-sex marriage was legalized on Aug. 1, 2013. Sexual orientation was added to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights Act in 1993.

“Both parties in this case should be recognized for reaching an agreement swiftly and allowing Cole Frey and his fiancé to enjoy their wedding day with this case fully resolved,” said Commissioner Kevin Lindsey. “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.”

Through its investigation of this case, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights determined there was probable cause of discrimination by the LeBlanc’s Rice Creek Hunting and Recreation, Inc., due to sexual orientation, which is prohibited by the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

“We made a mistake and we corrected it as quickly as possible,” said Paul Rogosheske, the attorney representing LeBlanc’s Rice Creek Hunting and Recreation, Inc. “We did everything we could to remedy it. We wish them the best.”

When the couple inquired about prices and availability for their wedding, the venue provided price quotes and specific dates that were available. After initial information about the couple’s event was provided, the venue’s owner realized the marriage was between two men and told the couple that the hunting lodge would not host a same-sex wedding and to find another venue.

As part of the Minnesota Human Rights investigation, the Department posed as a potential customer. The conversation between the hunting lodge representative and the test caller was very similar to Frey’s conversation.

While the same-sex law passed by the Legislature in 2013 provides specific exemptions for religious entities from taking part in the solemnization of same-sex marriages, it does not exempt individuals, businesses, nonprofits, or the secular business activities of religious entities from non-discrimination laws based on religious beliefs regarding same-sex marriage.

Visit MDHR’s website for more information about the Minnesota’s same-sex marriage law, which includes information on religious exemptions, and Frequently Asked Questions.

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Contact: Christine Dufour at 651-539-1118
or christine.dufour@state.mn.us
Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Communications Department
Freeman Building, 625 Robert Street North, Saint Paul, MN 55155

Editor’s Note: Please call Jeff Holman at 651.539.1090 to schedule interviews.

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