Gay Rights Group Upset After Fundraising Event Cancelled

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Sisters Gourmet Bistro in Van Buren cancelled an event scheduled for Feb. 16 hosted by a gay rights group. The restaurant’s owner told 5NEWS he does not agree with the organization’s lifestyle.

“I believe we have experienced open and flagrant discrimination,” said Erin Fowler, president of the River Valley Equality Center.

Fowler says the gay rights group spent weeks planning a fundraiser at Sisters Gourmet Bistro. The owner called and cancelled this week.

“It was heartbreaking,” said Fowler. “It was really distressing. A lot of people had put a lot of time and energy and money and just poured their hearts and souls into this event.”

Richard Hodo, owner of Sisters Gourmet Bistro, says he does not agree with the group’s movement.

“I do not believe in that type of lifestyle and I do not want to let that be part of my business,” said Hodo.

Fowler says the owner compared the equality center to the Ku Klux Klan. “He said if the KKK came to my event came to sisters and wanted to have an event here I would turn them down as well,” said Fowler.

Hodo says the comment was taken out of context. “I'm not gonna have a fundraiser here for that or like I said for the KKK or the Nazis or you know any group that would be a controversial group,” said Hodo.

Hodo told 5NEWS he has a gay friend and gay customers, but stands by his decision to cancel the fundraiser. “We've got fine dining and this is a private club and we have the right to refuse service to anyone,” said Hodo.

Hodo told 5NEWS the organization did not have a reservation.

The River Valley Equality Center says for now the fundraiser is on hold, but they are looking for a new venue. Fowler says they plan to hold an awareness day in about two weeks on Main Street in Van Buren.

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