Missouri Restaurant Cancels Wedding Dinner After Learning It Was For 2 Brides

A Missouri couple is claiming an Italian restaurant refused to host their wedding rehearsal dinner after learning they are lesbian. 

Kendall Brown and Mindy Rackley, a couple from the St. Louis area, hoped to have their wedding rehearsal dinner at Madison’s Cafe in O’Fallon. But those plans were derailed when the owner found out the dinner was for a same-sex wedding, Rackley wrote in a June 4 Facebook post. 

“We have never been treated this way and have never been declined a service because [of] who we are,” Rackley wrote. “Our hearts hurt.”

Rackley said that her future mother-in-law called Madison’s Cafe on June 3 to make a reservation for a rehearsal dinner on June 13. The owner reportedly called Brown the next day with questions about the event, including the groom’s name. 

“She said, ‘Your spouse is another woman?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’” Brown told NBC affiliate KSDK-TV in St. Louis. “And she said, ’I’m sorry, we’re going to have to refer you to someone else because we don’t condone that kind of relationship.”

But the owner didn’t stop there, according to the couple. She told Brown that she was denying her out of “love” and that she believes that the bride is in an “unhealthy relationship.” 

The interaction left both brides-to-be in tears, Rackley wrote on Facebook. She said she decided to share the experience on social media to “spread the word” about the restaurant’s non-affirming stances, “so that nobody needs to feel the way that we do now.”

“Nobody else needs to feel less [than] human, no one needs [to] feel rejected, dismissed or not enough,” Rackley wrote. “So many people have fought for our rights to be equal, to be free so that we don’t have to walk around and hide or be treated any different from any other human being in this world.”

HuffPost has reached out to Madison’s Cafe for comment. The restaurant recently updated its website with a mission statement portraying it as a faith-based business.

″We believe that the Bible teaches that the only true and appropriate marriage is the union of one man and one woman, as created, and that other types of marriage are immoral,” the restaurant’s website states. “We also believe that it is our religious duty not to aid or assist others to act immorally.”

Missouri’s Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex and national origin, but it does not explicitly offer protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to PROMO, Missouri’s LGBTQ advocacy organization.

As news about the couple’s experience spread online, people began to flood the restaurant’s Yelp account with negative reviews ― so much so that Yelp has temporarily disabled new posts, to ensure the reviews reflect actual consumer experiences and not reactions to the news. 

Kendall Brown and Mindy Rackley say an Italian restaurant owner refused to host their wedding rehearsal dinner.

Kendall Brown and Mindy Rackley say an Italian restaurant owner refused to host their wedding rehearsal dinner.

The restaurant’s owners, Tom and Julie Kuhn, are Catholics, according to the conservative Catholic news site LifeSite. While official Catholic doctrine shuns same-sex marriage, studies suggest that many American Catholics have gradually grown more accepting of queer love. About 66% of Catholics believe that Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that established a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, was the right decision, according to a 2018 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. And while there’s been a modest increase in the number of Catholics who say small-business owners should be able to refuse services to gay and lesbian people, most Catholics (58%) oppose these kinds of religion-based service refusals.

PROMO spokesperson Shira Berkowitz told HuffPost that the organization believes Madison’s Cafe wrongfully discriminated against Brown and Rackley. PROMO is not representing the couple in any legal capacity.

“As a nation, we decided a long time ago that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms,” Berkowitz said in an email. “It’s shocking to realize that we are still debating whether it should be legal to discriminate against someone or turn them away from public services simply because of who they are.”

Sara Gideon, Maines Democratic House Speaker, To Run Against Senator Susan Collins

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat, is expected to formally announce in the coming weeks that she’s running for Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ seat in 2020, five Democratic sources confirmed to HuffPost.

She will likely launch her campaign shortly after the close of the state’s legislative session on June 19, the three Democratic sources in Maine and two national Democratic strategists said.

Defeating Collins, the Maine moderate who infuriated liberals with her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, is key to Democratic hopes of winning back control of the Senate in 2020. Gideon is a top-tier recruit for the race and is expected to have at least the tacit backing of establishment groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List.

At the same time, the Senate GOP is marshaling its resources to defend Collins, who has long outperformed other Republicans on the ballot in Maine.

Gideon hinted last October that she would toss her hat in the ring following Collins’ controversial vote for Kavanaugh.

“Maine deserves a champion in the US Senate,” Gideon wrote in a Facebook post at the time. “After November I will be seriously considering how I can elevate the voices of people who deserve and demand to be heard and represented in Washington, DC.”

Gideon did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon is the daughter of an Indian immigrant father and a second-generation Armenian American

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon is the daughter of an Indian immigrant father and a second-generation Armenian American mother.

Gideon, a 47-year-old mother of three, has served in the Maine House of Representatives since 2012, representing the towns of Freeport and Pownal. Her legislative initiatives have focused on boosting the state’s economy, tackling the opioid crisis, investing in sustainable energy and increasing access to universal health care.

Earlier this week, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed a bill sponsored by Gideon that expands access to abortion in the state by allowing health care professionals who are not doctors ― such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants ― to perform the procedure.

Gideon is a graduate of George Washington University and the daughter of an Indian immigrant father and a second-generation Armenian American mother.

Two other Democrats have formally announced 2020 bids against Collins. Betsy Sweet, who ran and lost in the Democratic primary for Maine governor last year, said that she’s running on Thursday. Bre Kidman, a lawyer and the first openly non-binary U.S. Senate candidate in the country, filed to run in April.

Sweet appears to be Gideon’s most direct competition for the Democratic nomination. She finished a surprising third in that gubernatorial primary in 2018 and has already won the endorsement of the progressive group Democracy for America this time around.

“In the U.S. Senate, [Sweet will] be an unabashed champion for abortion rights, Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, organized labor, and criminal justice reform,” Yvette Simpson, the president of Democracy for America, said in a statement on Thursday. “In 2014, far too many National Democrats made a huge mistake by giving Susan Collins a pass on what should have been a reelection fight. In 2020, we can’t just fix that mistake by ending Susan Collins’ career, we must replace her with someone who’ll be a strong fighter for our shared progressive values.”

Nationally, establishment-backed Democrats have rarely lost Senate primaries in recent years. The Maine primary is June 9, 2020.

Sen. Susan Collins speaks to reporters following a Senate policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 2.

Sen. Susan Collins speaks to reporters following a Senate policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 2.

Collins won reelection with 61% of the vote in the Democratic wave year of 2008 and 68% of the vote in the Republican wave year of 2014. Democrats hope to give her a stiffer test next year.

A Critical Insights poll last month shows her approval rating in Maine has dipped 10 percentage points since her Kavanaugh vote in October and now sits at 41%, with 42% disapproval.

In the weeks following Kavanaugh’s confirmation, two separate crowdfunding initiatives raised millions of dollars for a potential Democratic challenger to Collins, which should provide whoever wins the primary with a significant financial boost. One of the funds has already pulled in $3.8 million, while the senator’s 2014 challenger spent only $2.4 million over the course of the entire race.

Heading into Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Collins was generally considered one of three swing votes. She ultimately supported him despite the multiple sexual misconduct allegations raised against him from the 1980s, drawing outrage from Democrats and abortion rights activists.

Collins, one of two Republican senators to publicly support abortion rights, has nonetheless voted for more than 30 of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees who signaled they were against abortion, including Kavanaugh.

Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen Dead At 75

Pat Bowlen, who won three Super Bowls over three decades as owner of the Denver Broncos, died Thursday at age 75 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Broncos revealed in a statement shortly after midnight local time Friday that Bowlen died at his home in Denver.

In this 2013 file photo, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen cheers during an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in

In this 2013 file photo, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen cheers during an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Denver. He died on Thursday.

The Bowlen family released a comment via the team’s statement that said: “We are saddened to inform everyone that our beloved husband and father, Pat Bowlen, passed on to the next chapter of his life late Thursday night peacefully at home surrounded by family. His soul will live on through the Broncos, the city of Denver and all of our fans.

“Our family wishes to express its sincere gratitude for the outpouring of support we have received in recent years. Heaven got a little bit more orange and blue tonight.

“Pat Bowlen had a competitive spirit with a great sense of humor. As fun-loving as he was, he always wanted us to understand the big picture. We will forever remember his kindness and humility.

“More important than being an incredible owner, Pat Bowlen was an incredible human being.”

Bowlen bought the Broncos in 1984. He served as the team’s CEO until 2014, when he stepped down from day-to-day operations after announcing he was fighting Alzheimer’s, a disease his wife, Annabel, was diagnosed with earlier this year. Longtime executive Joe Ellis has run the team since 2014.

Since Bowlen purchased the team, the Broncos have as many Super Bowl appearances as losing seasons (seven) and the league’s third-best winning percentage (.597), claiming three Lombardi Trophies in the 1997, 1998 and 2015 seasons. Bowlen also helped negotiate the league’s new $18 billion television contract while serving on the league’s broadcasting committee.

Bowlen is posthumously scheduled to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August along with the 2019 class.

Bowlen is survived by his wife, Annabel, and his seven children: Amie, Beth, Patrick, Johnny, Brittany, Annabel and Christianna.

Michigan Prosecutors Drop All Criminal Charges In Flint Water Crisis, Will Start Fresh

Prosecutors in Michigan dropped all pending criminal charges related to the ongoing water crisis in Flint on Thursday, more than three years into the investigation, saying they would start from scratch and wage a “vigorous pursuit of justice.”

Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy said they came to the decision after being appointed by the newly elected Democratic attorney general in January. The pair alleged the previous investigators had failed to adequately conduct their probe and may have missed key evidence necessary to any criminal trial. Eight people with ties to the Flint crisis had their cases dismissed.

“Legitimate criminal prosecutions require complete investigations. Upon assuming responsibility of this case, our team of career prosecutors and investigators had immediate and grave concerns about the investigative approach and legal theories embraced by the [office of special counsel], particularly regarding the pursuit of evidence,” Hammoud and Worthy said in a joint statement. “We cannot provide the citizens of Flint the investigation they rightly deserve by continuing to build on a flawed foundation. Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical and ethical investigation.”

Flint is still struggling, some five years after the city’s water supply was found to be tainted with lead after a government official changed the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River. Residents reported foul-smelling water that appeared dirty at times, and health officials also linked it to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that killed at least a dozen people.

Some Flint residents said they were disappointed with prosecutors' decision, which came three years after the investigation i

Some Flint residents said they were disappointed with prosecutors’ decision, which came three years after the investigation into the water crisis first began.

The water has improved since the crisis began, but people are still being told to drink filtered or bottled water as the city works to finish a massive project to replace old lead pipes.

Some Flint residents said they were disappointed with the decision, including Nayyirah Shariff, director of the group Flint Rising. Shariff told the Detroit Free Press that the dropped charges amounted to a “slap in the face” to those living in the city.

“This has been bungled,” she told the newspaper.

For their roles in the crisis, 15 city and state officials had been indicted over their actions during the crisis, but no one is currently serving time in prison and many pleaded no contest to misdemeanors, The Associated Press reported. The lawyer for Nick Lyon, the former director of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, told several media outlets they were “elated” at the dropped charges.

“We thought this was going to be the ultimate outcome anyway through the courts,” Lyon’s attorney, Chip Chamberlain, told The Washington Post. “But to have it come sooner is far better.”

Hammoud and Worthy said individuals who were previously charged could be charged again in the future, noting they had already identified “additional individuals of interest” in their renewed effort and obtained new information. The pair also said that their leads would be “aggressively pursued.”

Prosecutors recently seized the old phone of former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who was in charge of the state during the Flint incident.

Michigan’s attorney general, Dana Nessel, expressed her support for the decision in a statement Thursday, saying that prosecutors and investigators were still working to “ensure those who harmed you are held accountable.”

“The depth and breadth of concern for a fair and just prosecution and justice for the people of Flint is precisely why I appointed and entrusted Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy to lead the Flint criminal cases,” said Nessel, who was elected in November. “I trust them and if this step is necessary for them to do a comprehensive and complete investigation, I am in absolute support.”