Hunters First to Run Afoul of Gay Marriage Law
Cole Frey and Adam Block got hitched Friday, August 29th, with a little help from the owners of LeBlanc's Rice Creek Hunting and Recreation, Inc.
But the owners' $8,500 gift came after an initial refusal to host the gay couple's wedding, according to the Star Tribune.
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Since its founding in 1961, the 1700-acre hunting club has been a destination for ducks, turkeys, and pheasants. It's not uncommon for hunting ranches to try and bring in off-season revenue by catering to a broader audience, and with outdoor and destination weddings a rising trend, LeBlanc's aren't the first hunters to experiment in the new market.
But they are the first to run afoul of the recent Minnesota legislation that officially recognizes LGBT unions.
LeBlanc's was happy to host the wedding until Frey tried to pay the deposit. That's when it came out that his fiancé was another man. LeBlanc's backed out, citing ethical disagreement with same-sex marriage. Frey contacted the Minnesota Department of Human Rights almost immediately.
"You could see how people involved in a private hunting club, they were new to hosting weddings in the first place," said Paul Rogosheske, the attorney for LeBlanc's, in the article. "You could see how they made a mistake."
The new law exempts religious organizations from performing gay weddings. But that exemption doesn't cover private individuals or companies who object on religious grounds. Agents with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights followed up to Frey's report by posing as a gay couple hoping to schedule a wedding.
After being similarly turned down, LeBlanc's was contacted by Human Rights Department Commissioner Kevin Lindsey to negotiate a settlement.
"I hope this will be an isolated case," said Lindsey to the Star Tribune. He also remarked that he was pleased with LeBlanc's cooperation and readiness to "own up to it and make amends."
Local opposition was firm in their denunciation of the incident. "This is a shameful example of government forcing citizens to accept the government's view of sexuality and marriage," said John Helmberger, CEO of the Minnesota Family Council, when he heard about the settlement.
The ceremony finally took place in the chapel Camp Riley, with the reception held at a nearby private residence. After everything that had happened, Frey and Black said they felt unwelcome at the hunting club.
"We kind of came to the conclusion, anyway, that we didn't want to have it there because we didn't want to be associated with them in that way," said Frey.
It seems like an odd collision of American subcultures. But when you look closely it it isn't hard to see how the pieces fit together.
With gay marriage a central issue in the LGBT platform, and ranch owners always scouting for new sources of revenue, this may not be the last time hunters come into conflict with the law.