Sean Hydes and his partner Shawn Swiegers
A gay couple have been turned away from a leading Gauteng wedding venue because of their sexual orientation.
Sean Hydes and his partner of two years approached the well known Oakfield Farm in Honeydew to be the location for their wedding.
According to Hydes, when they arrived at the venue on the 25th of January to tour the facilities, the lady they made the appointment with appeared flustered after she realised she was dealing with a same-sex wedding.
She told the couple that she didn’t personally do gay weddings but that the owner of Oakfield, Matthew Stubbs, did. When he arrived, however, the woman quickly left Stubbs to inform the confused couple of quite the opposite.
Stubbs allegedly said that while he didn’t “mind gay people”, gay marriage is against his religious beliefs and that same-sex weddings could not be held at the venue.
Hydes told Mambaonline that the incident was “embarrassing and humiliating”. He explained that his biggest complaint was that the venue wasn’t upfront about its bigoted policy.
“They kind of pretend to be open to it but then they ambush you while you are there filling out the forms and doing a tour. At least be honest about it. It’s very unprofessional for such a well known venue,” he said.
Hydes believes that “it’s pathetic that people out there still have views” against gay marriage. “In general, trying to have a debate with them is pointless. It’s very old fashioned Christians and no matter what you say they won’t change their mind. That said, we wouldn’t want to get married there now anyway.”
He also revealed that the owner had contacted him since the incident with an apology of sorts. “His apology wasn’t that ‘I’m going to change my mind’, because he said that it’s still his belief, but he apologised for the way it was handled, that their policy should be made clear and that he would update the website.”
The contact page of the Oakfield Farm website now includes a disclaimer that reads:
“In order not to inconvenience any party, we wish to advise that due to the religious convictions of the shareholders of Auriga Investment Holdings, Oakfield Farm is not at liberty to conduct any other ceremonies that are inconsistent with such beliefs including same sex or polygamous unions. Should you have any queries in this regard please contact me at Matthew@oakfield.co.za and I shall get back you.”
One of Hydes’ friends commented on his Facebook page that, “Apparently a disclaimer now allows you to infringe on constitutional rights…”
Hydes said that his wedding will go ahead in September or October and confirmed that he’s found another wedding venue that’s happy to accommodate the couple.
The popular Oakfield Farm is said to be one of the oldest wedding venues in the country, and hosts two large bridal expos every January and July.
It’s not the first time that the venue’s been in trouble for its homophobic stance. In April, 2014, the Commission for Gender Equality notified Oakfield Farm that it was investigating a complaint against it of unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
That incident was one of three homophobic wedding venue snubs that Mambaonline is aware of in 20014 alone. In March, a lesbian couple was turned away by Kilcairn Farm in the Western Cape, while in August two gay men were snubbed by the Sha-Mani Lodge in Alberton, Johannesburg.
Sha-Mani had previously been fined R20,000 in 2012 for discriminating against a lesbian couple but appeared to simple shrug off the penalty and continued to reject lesbian and gay couples.
In March last year, the CEO of the SA Human Rights Commission, Kayum Ahmed, said that service providers are not allowed to discriminate against gay and lesbian people as this is a violation of the Constitution and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.
Mambaonline has contacted both the Commission for Gender Equality and the SA Human Rights Commission requesting information about the status of cases against anti-gay wedding venues, and is awaiting a response.