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No more ‘I do’ at Western Cape venue that rejected same-sex marriage ceremonies

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After “prayers and reflection”, the owners of a Western Cape wedding venue taken to task for refusing to host same-sex marriage ceremonies on religious grounds have announced the farm will no longer be used as a wedding venue.

This was revealed by Freedom of Religion SA (FoR SA), which has been supporting the couple.

FoR SA said Beloftebos owners Coia and Andries de Villiers had written to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which had hauled them before the equality court for discrimination against the LGBTIQ+ community, alerting the commission to the closure of the venue and seeking to reach an amicable resolution to the saga.

“In their letter to the SAHRC, the owners of Beloftebos also noted that, flowing from a number of years of ongoing prayer and reflection, combined with the Covid-19 lockdown measures which have made weddings rare and very difficult to host, they have decided it is time for a new season for them and their farm. As such, Beloftebos will no longer be available as a wedding venue to the general public, and the link on their website with reference to weddings has been removed,” said FoR SA.

The group revealed the Beloftebos owners have had engagements with the SAHRC outside court in a bid to have it understand their views on why they barred same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The owners maintain their position on the issue.

In their letter to the SAHRC, they called for the commission to respect their choice, saying the commission should “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.

“Further, that their views and beliefs regarding marriage are for considered and nuanced reasons which in turn are fundamental to their relationship with God, which relationship is central to all their activities.”

Going forward, the Beloftebos owners said they would “undertake to scrutinise carefully their website and other means of communication to ensure none of their content could be used cynically to abuse or undermine the dignity and value of those whose belief systems regarding marriage may be strongly opposed to those which they hold themselves”.

FoR SA executive director Michael Swain said: “We live in a society where our constitution encourages us to be united in our diversity. The owners of Beloftebos have stated clearly and consistently that the issue has always been about their sincere and deeply held convictions on the sacrament of marriage.

“It has never been about the sexual orientation of any person, and they have at every opportunity made it clear they fully respect and recognise the constitutional rights of the LGBTIQ+ community.”

Beloftebos was exposed to scrutiny after marketing manager Alexandra Thorne and her partner Alex Lu approached Coia de Villiers in 2017 in the hope of hosting a wedding the next October that would be “whimsical with a touch of fantasy”.

They stated in e-mails, shown to TimesLIVE, that they were a same-sex couple and hoped the owners of Beloftebos were “open” to it.

At first, they were simply turned away without an explanation, but on inquiring further, they were told “the reason is that we only host heterosexual marriages” and this was the “venue policy”.

Thorne said at the time she was “saddened and disappointed by the experience” and was overwhelmed by support received on social media when she spoke out.

In January 2020 another same-sex couple, Megan Watling and Sasha-Lee Heekes, had a similar experience and had enlisted the assistance of the SAHRC.

Source: TimesLIVE

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