A Cape wedding venue that has made headlines over the years for refusing to host same-sex marriages will soon have their day in court as the SA Human Rights Commission has decided to take a case against the establishment forward.
In the most recent incident, Beloftebos Wedding Venue in Stanford refused brides-to-be Megan and Sasha-Lee’s application for their wedding based on their “personal beliefs”.
Owner Coia de Villiers explained to the couple in an email that they cannot allow the marriage to take place at their venue because they only host heterosexual wedding ceremonies. The establishment further reiterates in an online media statement that they “do not wish to offend any parties but this is simply their venue policy”.
This is not the first time the venue has made news with their beliefs as a number of members of the LGBTQIA+ community have come forward saying they were discriminated against for their sexuality and denied requests to have their wedding at the popular venue.
After several complaints, the SA Human Rights Commission provincial office has now lodged a court application saying the venue is breaching Section Six of the Equality Act.
Professor Pierre de Vos from the University of Cape Town’s Department of Public Law has had a similar interaction with this venue. In 2017, De Vos reported the business to the SAHRC and exposed the venue to public scrutiny for discrimination against same-sex couples.
“It’s clear that if you offer a service to the public you are subject to the equality act. And if you are a business you are not allowed to practice discrimination against anyone. Establishments are only allowed to practice discrimination if it directly relates to their religion, like in the case of a church or any other religious establishment,” says De Vos.
Speaking on behalf of Beloftebos, Executive Director of Freedom of Religion South Africa, Micheal Swain, said Section 9 of the constitution clearly states that unfair discrimination is against the law, but there is more to it.
“In the same section of the constitution it states that no person may be unfairly discriminated against for their sex, race or religion. The venue is simply saying that in good conscious and in accordance with their religious beliefs and convictions they cannot host the wedding of a same-sex couple. This is not meant to be hurtful or judgmental although this is how it may feel to the couple. The owners of the venue are simply asking that just as they respect the couple’s right to be wed, their rights to follow their beliefs should also be respected,” explained Swain.
The venue and its owners believe they have the right to refuse to host people who are same-sex couples as it goes against their belief but the greater LGBTQIA+ community and beyond says their is unfair discrimination no matter the owners beliefs.