A couple who has already gained widespread attention for their opposition to same-sex marriage has been appointed to Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) Iowa team, his presidential campaign announced Tuesday.
Having decided to close their business — an art gallery and event space in a former church — over their refusal to host a same-sex wedding, Dick and Betty Odgaard are also behind a new campaign to erect 1,000 billboards asserting that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman.
The first billboard for the campaign has already gone up and contains the following quote: “‘Please … I need your help with this!’ — God”
The Odgaards’ crusade began in 2013, when a same-sex couple came to them seeking to wed in their gallery, the Gortz Haus Gallery in Grimes, Iowa. They explained their account in a video produced by the Becket Fund — the Washington, DC-based public law advocacy group behind the Hobby Lobby challenge and other high-profile lawsuits — which spearheaded their case.
The Odgaards said hosting such a ceremony violated their Mennonite beliefs. However, the gay couple, Stafford and Jared Eller, took them to court, filing a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, according to the Des Moines Register. Iowa banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in 2007, and same-sex marriage became legal there in 2009.
The Odgaards eventually settled the suit and opted to stop hosting weddings rather than serve gay couples, the Des Moines Register reported. They say the affair hurt their business and they will be forced to close their gallery this month. In the meantime, they have also launched an organization called God’s Original Design Ministry, which on its Facebook page says its “Mission #1” is to “Restore the Biblical definition of marriage in our society, that being an institution ordained by God to be between one man and one woman.” The first billboard, funded by donations, went up last month and the group is promising 999 more.
Their cause has arisen the sympathy of politicians who oppose gay marriage, including Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Cruz, who interviewed them earlier this month. In the video of the interview below, Betty Odgaard says, “We have no hatred toward gay people.”
Cruz’s campaign spokesman Rick Tyler told the Guardian that the senator was familiar with the billboard campaign and that “we’re well aware of their situation and their plight.”