The Beloftebos wedding venue in Stanford, Western Cape, just a two-hour drive from Cape Town, is refusing to host a same-sex couple for their marriage ceremony. They argue that their decision is based on religious beliefs and does not amount to discrimination.
UPDATE: They have just been taken to court
It’s getting serious now. The Human Rights Commission is taking the Beloftebos wedding venue case to the High Court and the Equality Court, IOL reports. They have beeen trying to mediate with Beloftebos since 2017 when a similar complaint was lodged.
HRC Commissioner Andre Gaum claims that their conduct is unconstitutional: “One cannot, on the basis of your religious beliefs, discriminate against the sexual orientation of others”.
Meanwhile, social media support for the couple is pouring in, including a petition with over 2600 signatures. Other wedding venues have offered to host their wedding free of charge.
The venue only hosts heterosexual weddings
So the homophobia just jumped right TF out in the Western Cape. The conservative Christian wedding venue owners of Beloftebos won’t host any LGBTQ+ weddings.
Lesbian couple, Sasha-Lee Heekes and Megan Watling, planned to have their wedding at this venue. When they tried to book it, the owners refused and directed them to the venue’s wedding policy. News24 reports this is not the first time they’ve declined to host a sex-same marriage. The same thing happened back in 2017.
Here’s what they have to say:
‘We, the owners of Beloftebos are Christians who seek to honour and obey God in everything we do, including the way in which we operate our business (the wedding venue). While the venue is available to people of all race[s], our Biblical conviction is that marriage is reserved for a life-long commitment between one man and one woman. This is a deeply held belief (not only for us, but for the vast majority of Christians around the world for over 2 000 years) and is a foundational part of our faith as Christians. This belief in turn guides our venue’s policy. It is our conscience before God which prohibits us from hosting any other kind of ‘marriage’ on our property…’
You can read the full media statement here. Also, note how they actually put the word marriage in inverted commas when referring to LGBTQ+ marriages. SMH.
The call to boycott businesses that discriminate
Imagine being confronted with homophobia when you’re trying to celebrate your love. Many don’t have to imagine. The LGBTQ+ community has experienced discrimination in the form of various laws and policies. Even home affairs officials – until recently – could refuse to marry same-sex couples.
Megan posted about their experience on Facebook:
‘At first I cried, but then I was overwhelmed with anger. How, in 2020, is this still a reality? Same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since 2006, but yet people still believe that they can justify hate and bigotry and quote a God that I don’t believe would stand for said hate and bigotry.’
She also implores us as a society not to support businesses that discriminate against queer love.
‘We do not ask that anyone approves or even accepts our love, but we do deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, just like anyone else. I implore that you do not support businesses that do not believe that love comes in all shapes and sizes. Please feel free to share.’
Related: Angola Decriminalises Gay Sex
The couple is taking legal action
Megan and Sasha-Lee have approached the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), EWN reports.
The venue refused to host them because of their sexual orientation, and HRC commissioner Andre Gaum says that one cannot trample on another’s right to equality and human dignity, on the basis of religious beliefs: ‘We strongly believe that in this particular instance, Beloftebos is not acting constitutionally.’
Since the 2017 complaint, the venue owners also took legal advice. Michael Swain of Freedom of Religion SA says: ‘Section 9 of the Constitution states that you can’t unfairly discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation; but one right does not trump another right.’
The SAHRC will add this to the 2017 case and take the matter to the Western Cape High Court sitting at the Equality Court. A possible outcome includes an order declaring the wedding policy unconstitutional.
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