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Adam Block (left) and Colin Frey.
On August 20, 2014, the Minnesota Human Rights Department announced a settlement agreement between a same-sex couple and LeBlanc's Rice Creek Hunting Lodge in Little Falls, Minnesota. The owners of the lodge had refused the couple's request to hold their wedding ceremony and reception at the venue. The settlement requires the Hunting Lodge to pay the costs associated with the couple's wedding and reception. In addition, the venue's owners have apologized to the couple and have agreed to comply with the Minnesota Human Rights Act in their future business dealings.
LeBlanc's Rice Creek Hunting Lodge is a 1700-acre facility owned by Elden, Joe, and Gregg LeBlanc. In addition to hunting parties, the Lodge also hosts weddings, where guests are promised "a picture perfect setting."
When Colin Frey and his fiancé Adam Block 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 owners realized that the marriage was between two men and told the couple that they would not host a same-sex wedding and to find another venue.
As the Star-Tribune reports, Frey was told that the owners "don't condone same sex marriage and they weren't ready for that yet."
After Frey filed a complaint with the Minnesota Human Rights Department, the department conducted an investigation. As part of the investigation, a Department employee posed as a potential customer. The conversation between the hunting lodge representative and the test caller was very similar to Frey's conversation.
The Department thus determined that there was probable cause of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is prohibited by the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said, "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."
Lindsey added, "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."
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations has been illegal in Minnesota since 1993. Marriage equality came to the state in August 2013.
The marriage equality law exempts religious entities from having to take part in the solemnization of same-sex marriages, but 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.
Paul Rogosheske, the attorney representing LeBlanc's Rice Creek Hunting and Recreation, Inc., said "We made a mistake and we corrected it as quickly as possible. We did everything we could to remedy it. We wish [Frey and Block] the best."
The Department helped negotiate a settlement in which Rice Creek Hunting Lodge 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 will come to around $8,500.
Frey and Block will be married on August 29 at Camp Ripley in Little Falls.
In the video below, Minneapolis television station KARE reports on the settlement.