A South African wedding venue has been criticised after it reportedly declined to host a same sex couple’s wedding.
Megan Watling and Sasha-Lee Heekes contacted the owners of Beloftebos, a venue situated two hours from Cape Town, via email to ask if they could host their nuptials.
They were shocked to discover their request had been rejected because the owners “do not host weddings between couples of the same gender.”
Watling posted the email on Facebook. “Unfortunately we will not be able to host your wedding at Beloftebos on April 3rd 2021,” it said. “The reason for that is based on personal beliefs”.
On the venue’s website there is a statement from 2017 in response to a similar same-sex enquiry. It said: “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.
“While the venue is available to people of all race, 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 2000 years) and is a foundational part of our faith as Christians.”
The owners added that they have sought legal advice and claim that their stance does not qualify as unfair discrimination”on grounds of conscience, religion and belief”.
“As such, it is not correct that our decision (based upon our religious convictions and beliefs) not to host same-sex wedding ceremonies automatically amounts to unfair discrimination or is illegal,” it adds.
Writing on Facebook about the venue’s decision, Watling explained that she and Heekes were “overwhelmed with anger”.
“How, in 2020, is this still a reality?” she added. “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.
“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.”
Watling’s post has garnered more than 1,500 shares and thousands of comments from friends and members of the public who are just as outraged by Beloftebos’ stance.
“I’m so sorry that people are like this to you both,” wrote one person. “You both deserve an amazing wedding. Maybe this was just a sign from God that you deserve better than that place.”
Another added: “Just not meant to be. There is another awesome place waiting to host your wedding.”
A spokesperson for Beloftebos told The Independent: “The owners are simply asking for equal respect for their sincerely held religious beliefs in this instance. While they welcome all people to their venue, they are not willing to accommodate all types of events. For example, they would not allow their venue to be used for a Halloween party; however, they would allow their venue to be used by the same couple should they wish to celebrate a birthday party.
“The venue also adds personal creativity to whatever function takes place there, so they do not believe that they should be obliged to effectively support in a personal capacity a type of event with which they disagree according to their Scriptural understanding of marriage and its deeply spiritual significance.
“They should therefore neither be forced to support it, nor penalised for refusing to do so, which in turn amounts to an infringement of their own rights to religious freedom (s15 South African constitution) and to not be unfairly discriminated against for their exercise and expression of their rights in this regard (s 9 South African constitution) – where this right is afforded equal protection and status with sexual orientation rights.”