LOVES PARK (WIFR) – A local minister who wanted to open a chapel to perform same-sex marriages in Loves Park says he’s being forced to put his plans on hold.
The city says the building didn’t meet code requirements during an inspection, however Stephen Siebler feels this may be a case of discrimination.
Stephen Siebler put time, work, and about $10,000 into remodeling a room that he was hoping to turn into a wedding chapel for same-sex marriages.
In addition to his current business, Divine Weddings and Mobile DJ Service Inc., the city of Loves Park said now, citing building issues.
“They issue all the permits for all these gambling parlors, but yet someone wants to come in and help them achieve their goals in life and be happy with who they’re with, I think that’s a major problem,” said Siebler.
Siebler says he was told he needed to add a handicapped accessible rap to the back door even though the rest of the building, with similar back doors isn’t required to have ramps.
City leaders are concerned the chapel will bring in large crowds compared to businesses in the same building which is why they’re requiring another ramp. Siebler says inspectors also told him his doors weren’t wide enough but says the building was grandfathered in before new standards were created.
He now feels he’s being put through a lot of unnecessary hoops which is why he moved his business to Rochelle.
“We’d rather dig our losses and start fresh with a city that’s willing to work with us.”
Siebler hopes to have a chapel open in Rochelle by mid-October and eventually add one to Oregon and Dixon.
The Loves Park City Building department says standards change once you change the use of a building, so the building is currently used for office space. To change it to assembly space, state requirements kick in and say the next step would be for Siebler to apply for a special use permit.