Same-sex couple banned from renting Moline reception hall

A same-sex couple from Davenport, Iowa says they were banned from possibly renting a Moline, Illinois reception hall because they are gay.

The manager of the University Club in downtown Moline confirms she refused to let the couple see or rent the space for a reception because of her religious beliefs.

Taylor Shumaker says she called the University Club on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 to inquire about the place.  She says bar manager Kristen Stewart offered to give Shumaker a tour and asked if her fiance would be coming.

“And she asked if ‘he’ would be coming and I just said, ‘No, it’s not actually a ‘he’, it’s a ‘she.’  And she said, ‘Excuse me?'” recounted Shumaker.

“I said, ‘It’s a woman,’ and she said, ‘Oh, we don’t rent to homosexual couples'”

Shumaker said she was more hurt than angry.

“I cried when I got off the phone because, honestly, I wouldn’t have called there if I knew it was their policy.  If it would have been on the website from the very beginning, I wouldn’t have wasted my time. She just said it was a religious belief. That was the end of the conversation.”

In a phone interview with WQAD, Stewart says it is all true, and defended her right to refusal.

“I am a biblical Christian and I do not believe in homosexual marriage, that’s correct. And because marriage is a covenant that God created for man and woman, as a biblical Christian, I cannot help them into or celebrate that sin,” said Stewart.

Stewart is the wife of the president of the University Club, and daughter-in-law of its owners.

She says the family  discussed the issue of gay marriage receptions after neighboring state Iowa approved same-sex marriage and Illinois endorsed civil unions.

“My husband’s family does not hold the same view. If there is a homosexual couple I will pass them on to them. I have told him if they want to do homosexual receptions I would not have any part of that. He and his family have decided they will,” Stewart said.

Her husband, Perry Stewart, later told WQAD that his wife initially “mis-spoke” to Taylor Shumaker and there is no ban on same-sex marriages at his banquet hall.

John Knight, with the Illinois ACLU, says the denial was a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Meanwhile Taylor and her partner of three years are looking elsewhere for a place to celebrate their future marriage, and moving on where they are wanted.

“They specifically said they do not rent to homosexual couples. They’re entitled to their personal beliefs,” she said.

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