MN Settles First of It's Kind Same Sex Marriage Discrimination Case

Updated: 08/23/2014 6:54 AM
Created: 08/23/2014 11:00 AM

(KSTP) - It's the first case of its kind ever settled in our state: a Minnesota couple denied service at a wedding venue, because they're a same-sex couple.

They shot some of their engagement pictures in the freezing cold. Around the same time, Cole Frey and Adam Block were also left out in the cold by their dream wedding venue. "It was a perfect setting. We wanted a country wedding, outdoors," Frey said.

The St. Cloud couple was eyeing LeBlanc's Rice Creek Hunting and Recreation, Inc. in Little Falls. But when Rice Creek discovered the wedding would involve two grooms, they refused to book the date. "I was kind of shocked and didn't know what to do when I first heard they denied us," Block said.

"I was kind of confused, but I was more angry than anything, that someone would deny us the right to get married," Frey said.

So Frey contacted the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which opened a formal investigation into the matter. The department even posed as another same-sex couple, called the same venue and received the same response. "We felt that the owner was confused as it relates to the state of the law," said MDHR Commissioner Kevin Lindsey.

And on Friday, MDHR announced a settlement in the case.

"They apologized for it and tried to make it right for the couple," Lindsey said.

Rice Creek also agreed to comply with the state's Human Rights Act and cover the cost of the couple's ceremony and reception at another location -- because they were booked up for the desired date. "I'm hopeful that this is going to be the only one that we see in this particular area," Lindsey said, referring to the possibility of future same-sex marriage discrimination cases in Minnesota.

Frey shares that same hope. "Now, people can learn from this. The law is the law," Frey said. "I stand up for what I believe is right, and I don't take kindly to people telling us that we can't do something that we're allowed to do."

An attorney for Rice Creek said the company admits it made a mistake and hopes the couple has a wonderful wedding. While individuals and businesses are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, there is an exemption for religious organizations like churches that object to hosting same-sex weddings.

Photo: KSTP