Same-sex couple react as Beloftebos stops hosting all weddings


After being turned away by Beloftebos, Megan Watling and Sasha-Lee Heekes married last year at another venue (Photo: Kirsten Goslett Photography

The bigoted Christian owners of Beloftebos, who were taken to court by the SAHRC because they refuse to host same-sex weddings, say they’ve stopped hosting all weddings rather than be forced to serve same-sex couples.

Coia and Andries de Villiers, the owners of the Western Cape venue, have been accused of violating the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act by discriminating against LGBTIQ couples because their beliefs reject same-sex marriage.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the owners – who argue that they have a constitutional right to express their religious beliefs by rejecting queer couples – revealed they’d written to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) “in an attempt to amicably resolve this matter, which has been ongoing for over two years.”

This follows a face-to-face meeting between the owners and representatives from the SAHRC last year “to try and understand one another’s position”.

In their proposed settlement to the SAHRC, the owners of Beloftebos cynically seek to limit the wider impact of the settlement so that it will not affect other venues or service providers that use religious grounds to reject LGBTIQ clients in future.

They demanded that any agreement reached between them and the SAHRC must “be fact-specific to the present matter and could not be used as a precedent in any other matter.”

The owners also asked the SAHRC to accept (without having to agree with them) that their “bona fide and intensely-held world view is that marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman.”

They further want the SAHRC to commit to taking action against those who “undermine the dignity of people” or “promote hatred, bigotry and prejudice against those who may have very different but equally intensely held beliefs about marriage…”

In their letter to the SAHRC, the owners of Beloftebos further announced that due to both the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns on their industry and “a number of years of ongoing prayer and reflection….”, “Beloftebos will no longer be available as a wedding venue to the general public”.

Speaking on behalf of the venue, Michael Swain, Executive Director of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA), said that “We live in a society where our Constitution encourages us to be united in our diversity.”

He asserted that the owners’ issue “has always been about their sincere and deeply held convictions on the sacrament of marriage”. He insisted that “it has never been about the sexual orientation of any person and they have at every opportunity made it crystal clear that they fully respect and recognise the constitutional rights of the LGBTIQ+ community.”

“A frantic effort at trying to twist their bigotry into a human right enshrined in the Constitution…”

In a media statement of their own, one of the same-sex couples turned away by Beloftebos in January 2020 – Megan Watling and Sasha-Lee Heekes – condemned moves by the SAHRC to settle the matter with the venue owners.

“Megan and Sasha had to learn via the media that the SAHRC was entering into settlement negotiations with Beloftebos without involving any of the other applicants in the matter or even informing them,” said Johan Pienaar, a spokesperson for the couple.

“It also appears that… the SAHRC did not consult any of the current complainants in their case as to whether they agree with the negotiations, nor have they presented them with a proposed settlement,” claims Pienaar.

The couple have been critical of the way the SAHRC has handled the matter, accusing the commission of dragging its feet, despite the first complaint being lodged against Beloftebos as far back as 2017.

Watling and Heekes also dismissed the Beloftebos statement as “just a repeat of their attempt to use religion as an excuse for their bigotry and a frantic effort at trying to twist their bigotry into a human right enshrined in the Constitution.”

They added that, “The behaviour of bigots to attack someone and then play the victim when they are called out is familiar to anyone who has ever encountered a playground bully. Beloftebos fits this mould perfectly.”

Watling and Heekes, who have since tied the knot at another more LGBTIQ-affirming venue in December, plan to pursue their own independent discrimination case against Beloftebos in the courts.

Pienaar said that the fact that Beloftebos has now shut down their wedding venue “does not wipe their bigoted behaviour from the wall of shame; neither does it indemnify them from the consequences of their actions.”

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