Schoongezicht Brackenfell & Paarl
Two Western Cape venues have joined a growing number of businesses that continue to flout the law by not allowing same-sex couples to marry on their premises.
The anti-gay polices of the Schoongezicht restaurants and wedding venues in Paarl and in Brackenfell came to light when a lesbian couple attempted to arrange their nuptials at the Paarl branch.
In a post on Facebook last week, the couple wrote: “Please note that neither Schoongezicht venues are gay friendly. NO gays please…
“We investigated the venue in Paarl as a wedding venue and were shown around and given a pricelist and info etc. and as we were leaving, asked: you are gay friendly right? To which we were told definitely NOT. This has been confirmed with the venue in Durbanville as well,” they said.
Mambaonline contacted the Schoongezicht Brackenfell branch and spoke to General Manager Lysencke Bruwer.
“We are not against gay people. We don’t have anything against gay people,” she said.
“The only thing that we don’t do is that we don’t do the wedding ceremonies… because we have our own church and the church is according to our Christian beliefs.”
Bruwer went on to explain: “So it’s not about the person, it’s not about the gay. It’s just we don’t allow it in our church because we don’t agree with the decision that they are making when they get married.”
She also said that gay and lesbian couples could get married elsewhere, off the premises, and are then welcome to hold their reception at Schoongezicht afterwards.
In their general information guidelines found on the Schoongezicht website, the venues state: “Our wedding & function packages are based on the more traditional definition of a wedding, due to the nature and comfort of our traditional clients, facility and location, we reserve the right to interview the potential clients and the weddings and function accordingly.”
The issue of wedding venues turning away same-sex couples has been an ongoing problem since same-sex marriage became legal in South Africa in 2006.
Despite the likes of constitutional law expert Pierre De Vos stating that this discriminatory practice by private business owners is in fact “breaking the law,” almost no action has been taken against these venues.
He has argued that the owners’ personal beliefs should stay personal and cannot have any bearing on the services they provide to the public. (Read more here.)
In 2012, the Sha-Mani venue in Alberton, Johannesburg was fined R20,000 by the Equality Court for discriminating against a lesbian couple but it simply shrugged off the penalty and continued to reject same-sex couples, most recently in August 2014.
There have since been numerous other similar incidents around the county, but other than brief bursts of outrage on social media no same-sex couple has pursued the issue in the courts or through the SA Human Rights Commission (that we are aware of).
Most attempts are abandoned by couples who, perhaps understandably, do not want to taint their wedding memories with negativity.
Mambaonline assisted Carte Blanche with an exposé on the subject last year, but the investigative TV show dropped the segment because it could not convince enough same-sex couples to speak out on camera.
Sadly, until LGBT South Africans are prepared to fight these kind of incidents to their conclusion, no matter how unpleasant this may be, homophobic wedding venues will have little reason to end their discriminatory practices.
There have, however, been two recent positive outcomes. In March 2015, Joburg’s Craft Beer, Food and Wine Fair was lauded for dumping its original venue after it was alerted that the location, the well-known wedding venue Oakfield Farm, had repeatedly refused to assist same-sex couples.
In April of that year, the Equality Court in Cape Town ruled that owners of guesthouses cannot use their religious beliefs to turn away gay customers. The same logic could be applied when it comes to wedding venues.