Rejected by Beloftebos: Sasha-Lee Heekes and Megan Watling on their engagement day
Sasha-Lee Heekes and Megan Watling, the engaged same-sex couple turned away by the Beloftebos wedding venue, are going to the courts to fight for their right to equality and dignity.
“After consulting with our legal team, they confirmed that the conduct of Beloftebos was indeed in contravention of the Constitution and the PEPUDA (Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination) Act,” the women said in a statement on Thursday.
“We will, therefore, be instituting action against them in the Equality Division of the Western Cape High Court. Our legal team will be in touch with their lawyers and papers in this regard will be filed in the next few weeks.”
The couple has indicated that they are prepared to take the matter to the Constitutional Court if they can secure funding to do so.
Heekes, 24, and Watling, 25, commented that “This is far bigger than feeling hurt about a wedding venue. It is a question of human rights and equality before the law, regardless of sexual orientation.
They added: “We do not embrace negativity, but we do believe in the values of our Constitution and the ideals set out in its preamble. In this instance, we feel that this part is particularly apt: ‘to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights’.”
Heekes and Watling approached Beloftebos in the Western Cape village of Stanford as a possible venue for their wedding after getting engaged in December. The owner, Coia de Villiers, told them that “based on our personal beliefs, we do not host weddings between couples of the same gender.”
The couple were also referred to a media statement informing them that Beloftebos hosting their wedding could lead to “eternal consequences” for the owners. The venue previously rejected another same-sex couple in 2017 and the latest incident has made local and international headlines.
Beloftebos’ Christian owners argue that their right to freedom of religion entitles them to refuse to offer services to same-sex couples. Legal and constitutional experts disagree and say that turning away members of groups protected by the Bill of Rights when providing a public service is illegal and unconstitutional.
“We did not seek to be in this position, we never conceived that we would be in this position, but now we find ourselves here,” said Heekes and Watling.
“We cannot and will not stand idly by as personal beliefs are used to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation and gender. No matter how politely phrased and although violence was not incited, this is unfair discrimination. Our intention is to play our part in breaking the silence on the continued unquestioned and ungoverned use of personal beliefs as means to unfairly discriminate against South Africans on the margins, in this case, the LGBTQIA+ community.”
The women have launched a campaign called Same Love and have encouraged people to join them on their website and social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.