A Western Cape wedding venue that is being taken to court for refusing on grounds of conscience and religious belief to host the wedding of a same-sex couple in 2017 is facing official intervention once again for turning down another same-sex wedding application.
Lesbian couple Megan Watling and Sasha-Lee Heekes launched a case with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) this week after the Stanford venue, Beloftebos, refused to host their wedding in April next year and referred them to a media statement on their website in which they explain their position.
The Christian venue owners posted the statement in 2017 after they faced backlash for refusing to host the wedding of an American same-sex wedding.
Advocate Andre Gaum of the SAHRC told media this week that a complaint by the US lesbian couple turned away by the venue in 2017 was about to be heard in court.
“We are finalising our court papers to go to the Western Cape High Court sitting at the Equality Court to determine that matter,” he said.
“We believe one cannot on the basis of your religious beliefs trample on other rights especially the right to equality and human dignity on prohibited grounds — in this case, sexual orientation,” said Gaum.
In their media statement explaining their stance on same-sex marriage, the owners of Beloftebos say it is their biblical conviction that marriage is reserved for a life-long commitment between one man and one woman. They say that while they respect South Africans’ right of freedom of choice – including the right to conclude same-sex “marriages” — they ask for the freedom of choice to believe and live their lives accordingly. They say the SA constitution does not require everyone to believe the same, and does not punish people for holding divergent beliefs and opinions.
Commenting at the time on an ANC official’s threat to take the 2017 matter to the SAHRC, Michael Swain, executive director of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) said: “It would also go against the constitution of South Africa, which specifically protects freedom of conscience, religion and belief as a fundamental human right (s 15) and prohibits unfair discrimination on grounds of conscience, religion and belief (s 9) – as does the Equality Act itself.”
Gay rights activist Ecclesia de Lange told enca that people should boycott Beloftebos and that the matter should be joined to the pending court case over their refusal to accommodate the wedding of the US lesbian couple.