GRAND RAPIDS — The city of Grand Rapids has issued a civil infraction against The Broadway Avenue LLC, claiming that the venue’s policy of only hosting weddings between biological men and women is discriminatory and violates the city’s human rights ordinance.
The city issued the municipal civil infraction against the venue on Sept. 30 after receiving multiple complaints from the community that led to an investigation of the business.
The venue drew criticism and protesters when it opened in July based on the owners’ policy of only hosting weddings between biological men and women.
“The Broadway Avenue LLC adopted, enforced, or employed a policy or requirement, or published, posted, broadcasted, or distributed an advertisement, sign notice, or solicitation which discriminates, or suggested, supported, or affirmed discrimination, in the provision of public accommodations,” the city of Grand Rapids said in a statement.
Venue owners Hannah and Nick Natale, or their legal counsel, are required to respond to the civil infraction citation within 10 days, according to the citation. They can either admit to or deny responsibility, which would lead to a court hearing.
A city spokesperson declined to comment further on the matter “due to the potential for future litigation in the 61st District Court.”
An attorney representing the Natales could not immediately be reached for comment.
Grand Rapids Diversity and Inclusion Manager Patti Caudill told MiBiz in July that the city had never issued a municipal civil infraction for a violation of the city’s human rights ordinance, likely making The Broadway Avenue the first entity to ever receive such an infraction.
As of July 13, the city had received 46 human rights ordinance complaints since December 2019. The city determined that 23 of those complaints were regarding incidents outside of the city’s jurisdiction and referrals were provided to the appropriate agencies, Caudill said.
Human rights ordinance complaints are reviewed by the city, which either refers the complainant to another entity, investigates the complaint, arranges a mediation between involved parties, or dismisses the complaint if allegations do not constitute a violation of the ordinances, Caudill explained. Civil infractions can be issued up to $500 in fines, she said.
The Natales bought the former church property located at 1140 Broadway Ave. NW for $230,000, according to city property records, and spent four years renovating the space.
The decision to only host weddings between men and women was a decision the Natales made after booking the first weddings at their new space, causing some couples that disagreed with the policy to ask for a refund. Hannah Natale told MiBiz in July that they were not issuing refunds to couples that were upset with the exclusionary policy.