A top-flight legal team is warning the Michigan Department of Civil Rights about its “hostility and discrimination” against a wedding venue that it accused of violating the state’s “sexual stereotyping” standard.
The issue involves Rouch World Events Center in Sturgis, which was targeted by a complaint filed by Natalie Johnson of Burr Oak.
She alleged, “On or around April 12, 2019, I was informed by the respondent’s representative, I could not have my wedding ceremony at the respondent’s venue, because the respondent does not allow patrons to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies. I believe I was discriminated on the basis of sex, female, for not conforming to sex stereotypes about how women are expected to present themselves in my physical appearance, actions, and/or behaviors.”
In a letter responding to the complaint from the state agency, the Great Lakes Justice Center explained the venue “has not engaged, and never will engage, in ‘sex stereotyping.’ Rouch World LLC holds no expectations, and has no policies pertaining to, how a person should or shouldn’t act, dress, talk, etc., due to his/her sex.”
“This allegation is factually baseless and devoid of any evidentiary support. Furthermore, the allegation is legally baseless as the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act has never been interpreted to include discrimination on the basis of ‘sex stereotyping,'” the legal team wrote.
Senior Counsel David Kallman wrote on behalf of the venue that the site is owned and run by devout Christians “who seek to operate their small, family-owned company in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs, without vilification or punishment from the government for holding to those beliefs.”
He pointed out his client held no animosity to the complainant and invited her to take advantage of the services that are provided.
In fact, the venue had agreed to host the reception for Johnson, as the wedding was to be held elsewhere. Then the request was made to have the wedding there too, and the venue operators declined.
“As a result, the couple decided to hold their wedding elsewhere, and Rouch World refunded their entire deposit, including a portion that was non-refundable under the contract,” the legal team explained.
The Justice Center response to Civil Rights Investigator Alexandra Baron continued, “My client’s religious beliefs should be treated with tolerance and respect. My client wishes the complainant nothing but the best and was willing to accommodate her to reach a satisfactory result for everyone that comported with my client’s religious beliefs.
“If, however, the department seeks to single out my client’s Christian beliefs as somehow being tantamount to ‘sex stereotyping’ (they are not), such a legal and factually frivolous prosecution and intolerance of my client’s religious beliefs would clearly demonstrate hostility and discrimination toward my client’s rights under both the United States and Michigan constitutions.”
The legal team said it would defend those freedoms, “seeking all applicable costs and attorneys’ fees for defending and seeking relief from such a frivolous action.”