Beliefs Culture Politics

Iowans plan 1,000 anti-gay marriage billboards

Richard and Betty Odgaard plan to erect 1,000 billboards advertising their belief in upholding “traditional” marriage between one man and one woman. Photo by American Billboards Corp., Durant, OK on July 24, 2015, courtesy of Richard and Betty Odgaard

Richard and Betty Odgaard plan to erect 1,000 billboards advertising their belief in upholding “traditional” marriage between one man and one woman. Photo by American Billboards Corp., Durant, OK on July 24, 2015, courtesy of Richard and Betty Odgaard

GRIMES, Iowa — After months of controversy, the Gortz Haus closed its doors last week in the wake of declining revenue — first, for its refusal to host gay weddings, then for discontinuing its wedding business altogether.

Though the Grimes bistro, art gallery and venue is no longer open, owners Richard and Betty Odgaard have no plans to put aside their religious campaign against same-sex marriage.

On the Facebook page for their ministry, God’s Original Design Ministry, the Odgaards say they plan to erect 1,000 billboards advertising their belief in upholding “traditional” marriage between one man and one woman.

READ: After gay marriage, expect conservative amnesia

The first billboard, a 14-foot by 48-foot black-and-white sign, went up outside of Durant, Okla., in late July. On Facebook, the group said the billboard was “funded 100 percent by your generous donations.”

“One down and 999 to go for 1,000 points of light,” the post read. “Thank you and God bless!”

Betty Odgaard declined an interview request. But she did stress that the billboard effort is not a campaign against the gay community.

READ: Jimmy Carter: Jesus would approve of gay marriage

Video courtesy of USA Today via the Des Moines Register

“It certainly isn’t coming from a hateful place,” Odgaard said. “What I’m most frustrated with is that it’s viewed as being hateful. And that’s the last thing that I want to convey. It’s just that we want to hold up the Biblical view of marriage.”

A Des Moines couple filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in 2013 because the Odgaards’ refused to let them rent the venue for a same-sex ceremony. In a settlement last year, the Odgaards agreed to pay the couple $5,000 and to not discriminate against same-sex couples.

They did that by choosing not to offer wedding services to anyone — straight or gay — a decision the Odgaards said caused the business to fold.

READ: With Presbyterians, mainline Protestants solidify gay marriage support

The Odgaards were heralded by social conservatives who applauded them for sticking to their religious beliefs over business concerns. They were represented by attorneys through the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a group that litigates nationwide “to protect the free expression of all faiths,” according to its mission statement.

And they’ve become a favorite talking point of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is campaigning for the Republican nomination for president.

Republican presidential candidate, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) attends a Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee hearing on "Revisiting IRS Targeting: Progress of Agency Reforms and Congressional Options" on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 29, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Yuri Gripas *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CRUZ-FAITH, originally transmitted on August 5, 2015.

Republican presidential candidate, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) attends a Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee hearing on “Revisiting IRS Targeting: Progress of Agency Reforms and Congressional Options” on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 29, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CRUZ-FAITH, originally transmitted on August 5, 2015.

Cruz, who previously blamed “liberal fascism” for the demise of the Gortz Haus, will hold a “Rally for Religious Liberty” Aug. 21 featuring the Odgaards.

The couple is also slated to speak at November’s National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines. That organization’s website describes widespread religious persecution: “With an increasingly aggressive leftist minority rising, now is the time to bring religious liberties, parental rights, and freedom from big government to the forefront of consideration in national politics.”

Donna Red Wing, executive director of LGBT advocacy group One Iowa, said the couple seems to have the backing of influential and well-funded people.

“Clearly, Dick and Betty Odgaard are now a poster couple for the evangelical right,” she said. “I think that they have been encouraged to go in this direction. I’m sure there will be funding to help them reach their goal of hundreds if not thousands of signs.”

The billboards may spark discussion about religious liberties, but will otherwise have little effect, Red Wing said. Iowa legalized same-sex marriages in 2009 and in June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld marriage as a constitutional right for all couples, regardless of sexual orientation.

“I don’t think their highway signs are going to change the law,” Red Wing said. “The Supreme Court’s ruling is the law of the land, and a few or a thousand highway signs is not going to change that.”

(Hardy reports for The Des Moines Register.)


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Kevin Hardy


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  • I first wrote about these people in August of 2013. They were Brian Brown’s favorite new chew-toy as victims of gay marriage. Two years later, not much has changed except their decline in revenues ( ).

    The conclusion that I have come to, which is just my considered opinion, is that what these folks really want is the ability to display their disapproval of gay people — to shame them.

    Were it a true article of faith then they would be obliged to determine if any of their brides and grooms were working on second or third marriages. And, by the way, have they had premarital sex? You get the idea. Apparently their family Bible came with that section in Leviticus highlighted in yellow.

  • Apparently all that these billboards will accomplish is to make it even harder for those of us who follow Christ with compassion rather than with judgment to share our faith with others. They’ll have a preconceived notion that Christianity is about exclusion, a narrow morality that is full of holes, highly judgmental and that appears to only care about money, power, and cultural influence. How sad.

  • They may be planning on 1000 billboards, but so far, their new grift has produced only about $153. At that rate, they’ll have their second bill board in about 1000 years.


    their whiny pleas for more lucre, which they attribute to the Master of the universe, would be funny if it weren’t so slanderous. But thety’ll have ot deal with their creator, not me.

    And I guess there are just not enough starving children in the world.

  • now all we need are 1000 anti-Christian billboards……anti make believe EVIL fairy tales

  • Thank God the Rainbow flag will have some competition. Of course, the billboards will soon be torn down because they “incite hate”, but the Judy Garland flags will be prominent in all Democratic rallies….. perhaps overwhelming even the Stars and Stripes.
    “Gay Uber Alles ! “

  • it will be nice when these bigots are all dead in a few years…please, God, strike them down and send them to Hell for their hatred. Amen!

  • Unfortunately for your little martyrbaiting spiel, nobody is looking to tear them down. They are in bad taste and an expression of bigotry, but still very much legal. They will remain so.

    Too bad Christians would rather spend money on promoting hate than caring for the downtrodden. We already know from the World Vision kerfluffke that they would rather let children die of starvation than let gay couples have employee benefits.

    Let me know when they get around to showing concern for people and promoting compassion.

  • I’ve never seen people so obsessed with OTHER People getting married as the anti-equality squad.

    And, what an insult to God, suggesting an omnipotent being needs “help” – with anything. This does NOT show their ‘faith’ in a very good light at all, since, “What you do to the least of these, you do to Me.”

  • ” Betty Odgaard declined an interview request. But she did stress that the billboard effort is not a campaign against the gay community. ”

    That’s utter nonsense.

    It’s being scornful towards the gay community for sure.

  • The billboards are not for God. They may inspire people to speak up against this false idea of marriage. Sympathy for the homosexual should not be assuaged with a new, incomprehensible definition of marriage.

  • You mean like save the lives of 1 billion people?

    Or contribute to the expansion of our knowledge like 95% of the scientific community?

    There is no meaningful contribution to society by atheists, riiiight.

    Of course none of that changes the fact that Christians would rather attack people for what they do in bedrooms than giva a damn about following Christ’s words about compassion and the downtrodden.

  • The billboards are for the sake of acting like malicious fools in public. Seriously if this is how your faith compels you to spend money, its useless and lacks any redeeming values.

  • Atheists, by their very name, demean themselves and propagate a falsehood in order to spotlight humanity as creator and lawmaker of itself. Using God given materials to cure disease, feed the poor, build homes, whatever….and laying claim to it as possible without God is self-aggrandizing and a lie.
    So, no, atheists steal from God in a manner….then mock him whenever the chance arises. Man can create nothing. All the ingredients that collectively make up our discoveries, cures, and technology have been provided by God from the beginning.
    So atheists are in love with themselves.

  • Gay pride parades reek of the debauchery that gays publicly say they don’t participate in. So who are the fools?
    Christians setting up billboards to spread a truth of both history and faith, or Gays demonstrating every silly stereotype rightfully attached to them? What is redeeming, or even respectable, about a Gay Pride parade?

  • No Dominick, you demean atheists and religious beliefs with such petty mean spirited attacks. You show the venal and hysterical nature of religious belief by lashing out at people just because they do not believe as you do.

    You may feel the need to attribute everything to God, but it is arrogance which makes you think that everyone else is compelled to do so. The only ones who appears to be in love with themselves are the self-appointed functionaries of God’s Will. They feel they are entitled to demand that all people think and act as they do.

  • “Don’t participate” meaning in lying Christian-speak to mean discriminate against others in public settings. Another waste of time, money and effort by Christians which can be better served by helping the downtrodden as Jesus expected of his followers.

    Maybe if some Christians spent time performing deeds which garner respect instead of pointing fingers at the deeds of others, they might have a better chance of being taken seriously.

    “What is redeeming, or even respectable, about a Gay Pride parade?”

    The fact that one can exist without the participants fearing murder and assault by mobs of bloodthirsty religious types. 🙂

  • Dominic –

    “Let me know when an Atheist is of any meaningful service to humanity”

    What a foolish and ignorant statement!


    And millions of others!
    Shame on you for knowing nothing about…

  • The first Christian bigot was God himself:

    “Kill all Homosexuals” – Yahweh (Leviticus 20:13)
    “Put to death….the homosexual” – Paul (Corinthians)

    We are all going to die. And it is likely to be permanent.
    Whatever this god offers, it is made up by people who didn’t want to die.

    Religion is something to abandon. As soon as possible.

  • Dominic,


    You are the one who is disgusted by the human body – you claim a human being is debauched for simply celebrating our natural beauty?

    The natural beauty of our bodies (fat, skinny, whatever) is a joy. And you are nothing but a bully to scorn it!

  • Now that I’ve seen the photo of the billboard itself, I can easily disagree with your statement. There is nothing “judgmental”, nothing “narrow” about the billboard at all. And it fits with what the Bible (God’s Word) clearly teaches.

    Of course, these days it’s difficult to get Christians to agree with what the Bible clearly teaches, which is one more reason why our entire nation is about to crash and burn.

  • You just blatantly misquoted Paul and didn’t even offer a citation. God offers forgiveness to anyone who repents (recognizes they are a sinner) and puts their faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, Homosexuals included (1Cor6:11). That portion of the letter is exhorting believers not to continue in old patterns of behavior but to live out a good witness. Nothing about killing homosexuals or anyone else there.

  • Just because you can’t understand it doesn’t mean it is incomprehensible to anyone but yourself.

    but then, you also believe that atheists have nothing to contribute to society. Apparently, a good deal is incomprehensible to you.

  • I feel like this puts words in gods holy talking hole. I would be offended if I were Christian. Not sure why you all think God is helpless. He created gays did he not? Oh they rebelled against him? Maybe the bible writers rebelled against him and got it wrong? In the end it’s a legal issue if you wish to live by biblical law go rape, murder, and stone somewhere else.

  • hate to break it to you but your neither God wrote nor spoke a single word in your bible, the entire book was, in fact, written by mere mortals. Mere mortals who had an agenda of control and promotion of populating communities.

  • Dominic, I would like to call you a liar but I’ll refrain from doing so. Answer this, what is the most recent Gay Pride parade you’ve attended, what city and when did you attend?

  • Dominic: Since Grimes is in the Des Moines metro-area, that billboard runs about $1500-$2500/mo. at least, perhaps even double that range. But certainly probably about, say, $2K/mo. at least. Now, while this is a perfectly legal, and not especially offensive or hate-mongering, religious propaganda ad, I certainly respect their First Amendment right to broadcast their propaganda-meme as long as they can afford to do so. But wouldn’t that money be better spent, say, helping the homeless (and/or otherwise downtrodden/oppressed/distressed human beings) in the greater Des Moines area? This latter, instead of expending on anti-same-sex-marriage propaganda, would surely seem to be OBJECTIVELY more consonant with (supposed/purported, anyway) Christian principles. No?!

  • Plus, Dominic, we should carefully note that the most common mode (or version, if you will) of marriage, in both the OT & the NT (but especially the OT) is […wait for it…] POLYGAMY. So much for the supposed Biblical foundation for monogamous heterosexual marriage.

    The sole (or at least primary) reason for marriage equality is that same-sex life-partnership couples have a basic human right, a meta-constitutional right secured/safeguarded by the Constitution, to enter into a life-partnership with the person of their choice, with the full bundle-of-rights, the full panoply of rights, that typically (for the last century or two, anyway) goes with ‘marriage’.

  • As a bisexual/pansexual man, Dominic, I personally would’ve settled for civil-union/domestic-partnership legislation, _as long as_ IN SUBSTANCE (in terms of the bundle-o’-rights, etc.) it would be identical with marriage. For me, at least, it was/is not so much especially about the ‘m’-word _per se_, but about the abilty to form a public. legal pair-bond/partnership, with all the bundle-o’-rights typical of marriage, with someone of the same sex as readily as with someone of the opposite sex. Though I grant, if only _arguendo_, that that might eventually raise the specter of ‘separate-but-equal’ problematicity. So, anyway, as it turns out, as of 6 weeks or so ago, marriage it is!

  • Now, as for atheism and freethought/skepticism (and naturalism, as distinguished from supernaturalism), you should really check it out before you deign to opine, since you’re obviously ignorant-as-a-fencepost regarding such things. I think it’s more-or-less fair-&-accurate to say that most atheists & freethinkers find the notion of ‘God’ (at least the Abrahamic-Christian ‘God’, especially as developed over the last several centuries in, say Christianity) to be simply insufficiently metaphysically _coherent_ and/or _intelligible_ to _warrant_ (PACE Alvin Plantinga, Slick Willy Lane Craig, etc.) being taken seriously, much less ‘believed’-in. It’s really that simple. Instead of being the ‘divinely-inspired’ ‘word’ of ‘God’, the Bible is (more-or-less _obviously_) merely an edited-&-re-edited, gerrymandered (so to speak) compilation of Levant-tribal folktales/legends/myths mish-mashed together over about a 4 thousand yr period or so. Capiche?!

  • The bill board co\many is called American bill board company their phone number is 800.507.61111 or 614.451.7772 and address is 4900 Reed Road Suite 129 Columbus OH 43220, website is tell them you will do business with the company and/or any company they market with. Hit them in the bill fold

  • Who needs a god that can’t handle something like that on his own? And why did he make gays in the first place if he didn’t like them? And if he is the merciful god he claims to be, why isn’t he working on the starving children, cures for cancer and that other false Christian religion with all those false believers – you know who they are.

    He won’t talk to me but next time somebody talks to this poor excuse for a god, tell him to get off his duff and get to work and maybe he will get a little of that worship he is so addicted to.

  • You know what that billboard tells me? Your god is pathetic. An all powerful being asking HELP!? Seriously!? How much of a pussy IS your god?

    I’d rather throw my lot in with pagans than with your impotent whipping boy of a god. At least their deities show some backbone.

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