Church sued for $2.3 million over lease policy prohibiting LGBTQ events

The Holy Rosary Church in Portland, Oregon is featured in this image.Facebook/Holy Rosary Church

A church in Oregon that rents out part of its space is facing a $2.3 million lawsuit over its lease policy that prohibits tenants from hosting LGBTQ events.

According to Courthouse News, the Ambridge Event Center filed a lawsuit against the Holy Rosary Church, claiming that its reputation had been damaged for abiding by the lease policy that required the company to turn away business from the LGBTQ community.

The church, which owns the space at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in northeast Portland, is being sued for breach of contract, discrimination and violation of Oregon civil rights and business laws.

The lease contract forbid Ambridge from renting the center "to organizations and groups of people with whom the church wished not to affiliate," the complaint stated, as reported by Courthouse News.

"The church was explicit in prohibiting Ambridge from renting out the Event Center to members of or groups affiliated with the LGBTQ community," it continued.

Ambridge says the business drew negative press in 2015 after it was prohibited from renting out the center to a group "associated with the LGBTQ community."

The group in question did not file any complaint against Ambridge Event Center or the Holy Rosary Church after it was rejected from using the event space.

Ambridge then hired openly gay events coordinator Gary Sorrels in an effort to restore its reputation with its clientele and the LGBTQ community.

The company claims the church issued the notice to vacate "as retaliation for hiring Mr. Sorrels, and because Ambridge had chosen to associate itself with the LGBT community."

Ambridge is seeking $1.8 million in lost income as well as $69,000 in property taxes that it had already paid and $250,000 as reimbursement of money spent on improving the building.

Christine Lewis, the legislative director for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, said confirm religious groups are exempted from the state's anti-discrimination law under certain circumstances.

The law states that churches are allowed to turn away LGBT groups if "the use of facilities is closely connected with or related to the primary purposes of the church ... and is not connected with a commercial or business activity that has no necessary relationship to the church or institution," Oregon Live reported.