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S.African lesbian couple taking venue to court for refusing wedding

A South African lesbian couple on Thursday vowed to take a venue to equality court over discrimination after it refused to host their wedding ceremony because of the owners’ Christian beliefs.

Megan Watling, 25, and her fiancee Sasha-Lee Heeks, 24, had their wedding dreams dashed when well-known event venue, Beloftebos, turned them away based on their sexual orientation.

In a statement on Thursday the couple said that in the next few weeks they would be “instituting action against them in the Equality Division of the Western Cape High Court.”

With the help of the South African Human Rights Commission, the couple is determined to fight against what they say is a question of human rights and equality.

“Our focus is now turning to this legal case because its outcome, which might end up in the constitutional court, is an important one not just for the LGBTQIA+ community but for anyone that exists on the margin. For anyone who has experienced unfair discrimination,” said Heeks.

Watling and Heeks had enquired via email about having their wedding at the venue, planned for April 2021.

But the owners of the Beloftebos Wedding Venue, which is about two hours outside Cape Town, told them that they do not host same-sex weddings because of their Christian beliefs.

“When we got the email initially I was really really hurt. I cried because I feel like it invalidated our love. I’d finally come to a point where I had accepted who I was,” Watling said.

“We were basically told that because we’re a same-sex couple they can’t host us because that means that they will go to hell.”

This is not the first time Beloftebos has turned away a same-sex couple. In 2017, Alexandra Thorne and Alex Lu were also refused due to their sexual orientation.

In 2006, South Africa became the sole African nation to allow gay marriage. The country has become a haven for African homosexuals who flee persecution at home or travel to the country to get married before returning home.

Spokesman for Beloftebos and director of Freedom of Religion South Africa, Michael Swain, said it would be unfair for the venue owners to be forced to celebrate something that goes against their Christian beliefs and convictions.

But he said the venue would have no problem hosting any other event for a same-sex couple, such as a birthday party.