Lesbian couple ‘heartbroken’ after Christian venue refuses to hold their wedding because of ‘personal beliefs’

A lesbian couple in South Africa are “heartbroken” after the Christian owners of a wedding venue refused to hold their ceremony because of “personal beliefs”.

Sasha-Lee Heekes, 24, and Megan Watling, 25, had been together for more than seven years when they got engaged over Christmas.

Soon after, they sent an email to the Beloftebos Wedding Venue in Stanford, Cape Town, enquiring about holding their wedding ceremony there.

The couple said they were “heartbroken” and “disheartened” to receive a rejection back from Coia de Villiers, the owner of Beloftebos.

“Based on our personal beliefs, we do not host weddings between couples of the same gender,” de Villiers said, and pointed the lesbian couple to a statement on the Beloftebos website that sets out its stance on same-sex weddings.

“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, 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,” reads the statement.

“We were both heartbroken, and disheartened – to have your human rights violated simply because you love someone of the same sex,” said Heekes and Watling.

“This in a country where not so long ago, similar reasoning was a significant contributor to mass human rights violations of people of colour, is unfathomable. We knew that we could not simply accept what had happened,” they added.

This is not the first time Beloftebos has refused to hold a same-sex wedding.

In 2017, another lesbian couple in Cape Town – Alex Thorne and her girlfriend Alex Lu – were told by the venue that it wouldn’t hold their wedding, because it had a “policy” on only hosting heterosexual weddings.

Heekes and Watling said they had not previously been aware of this, but now they know they intend to pursue action against Beloftebos.

“We are now aware that this particular venue has been in the news before for the exact same reason – but it does not seem as if it was taken to task. We fully intend on seeing this to its conclusion,” Heekes and Watling said.

“We have lodged a formal complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). We have also turned to social media, despite the fact that it has made us vulnerable to hateful and hurtful remarks,” they said.

“This is so much bigger than just us and our wedding. If there is any legal counsel out there that is willing to assist us in this process, we would love for them to join us in our endeavours to fight the continued lived reality of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“We also ask that people in spaces of privilege support businesses that support equality as well as organisations that support the LGBTQIA+ community.

“Lastly, we ask everyone to have the courage to speak out against discrimination, of course when it is safe to do so.”