Enough Already: Another Wedding Venue, This Time in Grand Rapids, Is Turning Away Same-Sex Couples

Owners Nick and Hannah Natale say they can help you find a venue that's not homophobic (thanks?)

By |2022-07-12T17:45:55-04:00July 12th, 2022|Michigan, News|

Well, hateful homophobia has reared its ugly head in the state of Michigan yet again. This time it’s a new wedding venue in Grand Rapids, the Broadway Avenue, who, with an anti-queer Instagram post, has announced their policy of blatantly discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community by refusing to host same-sex weddings at their recently renovated church. This despite the fact that the United States Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is a Constitutionally-protected right seven years ago, in 2015. 

“Our business is the result of a lot of hard work and dedication and is a reflection of who we are, and the values and beliefs we hold from our faith in Jesus Christ,” owners Nick and Hannah Natale said in their post. “As a result, we would like our business to remain true to our Christian faith and this includes marriage.”

As closed-minded conservatives generally do, they went on to patronize the LGBTQ+ community by insisting they have “love and respect for all,” though clearly the couple has skewed definitions for both of those terms. But all is not lost — even though they refuse to serve LGBTQ+ individuals in their establishment, they “would be happy to help you find a venue” that is not hypocritical and prejudiced. (And who says Christian charity is dead?)

The couple went on to say that their “Christian values and beliefs” do not affect how they treat people — outside of refusing to host their events, of course — and, additionally, their antiquated response to LGBTQ+ individuals does not affect “how we welcome event guests and who we hire.” Still, one would be advised not to show up to the venue in drag. (If you must, please at least wear a modest heel.)

This situation is not new to Michigan. The Rouch World Event Center in Sturgis, Michigan, filed suit against the state after the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) came down on them in 2019 for refusing to serve LGBTQ+ clients. Rouch World alleged in Rouch World LLC et al v MDCR et al that the MDCR had no right to interfere with their business practices, arguing that sexual orientation is not a protected class under the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel argued before the state’s Supreme Court in March that Elliot-Larsen does, in fact, include sexual orientation. Rather than allowing the case to take the usual route up the judicial ladder, Nessel grabbed the case before it went to the Court of Appeals and filed a bypass application with the Michigan Supreme Court. A decision is pending.

“I have long fought for equal treatment under the law,” Nessel said in a statement following her appearance before the Supreme Court. “I was proud to represent our client agency [the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR)] this morning, as well as the people of our vibrant state. No one should experience barriers to employment, housing, education, or public accommodations and services because of who they are or who they love.”

Grand Rapids does not appear to have a non-discrimination clause in its legal code regarding businesses discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender identity, but that hasn’t stopped the LGBTQ+ community in Michigan from making themselves heard. 

“It’s incredibly disappointing,” said Meghan Cytacki-Lewis, who helped organize a protest Monday night outside of Broadway Avenue against the venue’s policy, to Grand Rapids’ Fox 17. “I think this is outright homophobia and discrimination.”

Cytacki-Lewis is not alone in her thinking. The Natales’ Instagram post has received an enormous amount of comments, most of them opposed to their hateful policy.

“I really, truly just don’t understand why you would be in the wedding industry if you can’t celebrate love in all forms,” said Instagram user violet.flour.bakes. 

A post from the account of ArrowTownDesigns, which offers handcrafted goods out of Michigan, said the company had watched the progress of the Broadway Avenue renovations with excitement and had looked forward to recommending the space. Not now, though.

“I’m so sad to see this kind of discrimination,” the comment from ArrowTownDesigns read. “Reading through the comments makes me sick to my stomach as I’ve read your responses to many comments stating that couples could be anything outside of the Christian faith (including ‘satan worshipers’) but not gay. This is the kind of behavior that makes it embarrassing to be a Christian. This is not the way.” 

“This is not true Christianity and it’s disheartening that this is how people perceive Christ followers,” ArrowTownDesigns continued.

In the meantime, other Michigan businesses focused on the wedding industry are explicitly reaching out to LGBTQ+ couples. Wild Bloom Photo Studio in Royal Oak, for instance, is offering mini photo sessions at no cost to five LGBTQ+ couples this month. Additionally, Pride Source’s Yellow Pages offers many option for wedding-centric businesses that, unlike Broadway Avenue, will welcome LGBTQ+ people. 

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael joined Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.