Same-sex couple, wedding venue settle discrimination case

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Cole Frey and Adam Block wanted a country wedding, outdoors, the young St. Cloud couple told KSTP.

So they picked a venue that fit the description: LeBlanc’s Rice Creek Hunting and Recreation in Little Falls.

But early into the planning Rice Creek's owners backed out, told the two the lodge wouldn't host a same-sex marriage and they'd have to find another place.

Six months later, LeBlanc's Rice Creek ins apologizing for denying the couple and paying for the couple's wedding as part of a settlement reached after Frey and Block brought their case to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, the agency announced Friday.

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It's the first wedding case regarding public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation the department has handled.

"Now, people can learn from this. The law is the law," Frey told KSTP. "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."

Paul Rogosheke, the attorney representing the Rice Creek owners, said they realized a mistake was made "and we corrected it as quickly as possible.”

"We did everything we could to remedy it. We wish them the best,” he continued.

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Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act and its public accommodations statute, it's illegal for anyone publicly offering goods or services to deny a customer's purchase based on sexual orientation, race, religion and a host of other attributes. There are some religious exemptions when it comes to same-sex marriage.

"[The settlement] 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 in the release.

The investigation

Frey and Block tried to book the venue by telephone in February, KARE 11 says.

According to the Department of Human Rights release, the couple received initial information on prices and date availability. But when the venue later realized it was a same-sex wedding, the owner told the young couple to find another location.

So they went to Minnesota's human rights agency and filed a complaint.

As part of the department's investigation, they contacted Rice Creek and posed as a potential customer.

"The conversation between the hunting lodge representative and the test caller was very similar to Frey’s conversation," the release says.

A settlement was reached this week.The lodge will cover the cost of Frey and Block's ceremony, reception and accommodation for out-of-town guests (totaling about $8,500, KARE 11 notes), and agreed to comply with the Minnesota Human Rights Act in all future proceedings. The lodge also apologized for the incident.

The couple won't be holding their wedding there anymore however. KARE 11 says Rice Creek offered a September slot, but Frey and Block had already reserved the chapel at Camp Ripley for Aug. 29, and all their guests had made travel arrangements.

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