Just a few months after the Beloftebos saga, another wedding venue in the Western Cape, Du Kloof Lodge, has been accused of flouting the constitution and the law by rejecting LGBTQ clients.
A same-sex couple, who have asked to remain anonymous, recently used the Confetti.co.za website to contact several venues to request quotes on hosting their wedding.
The couple plan to tie the knot at the end of next year. “We are starting to look at prices now as we want to open a savings account [for the wedding],” Paul* told MambaOnline.
“We started to get emails from places and we were happy and proud that we are able to get married in this wonderful country,” he said. “That’s why it was such a shock when we got the email from them [Du Kloof].”
According to a screengrab sent to us, the venue’s head of marketing and events, Niki Louw, replied to the couple’s query by stating: “Thank you for getting in touch with us. We don’t, however, host same-sex marriages at Du Kloof.”
Paul said that he and his partner are appalled by the rejection. “Cape town is supposed to be one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. I am very sad that someone will go out of their way to stop someone else’s happy day.”
When asked what he’d say to those who believe that a venue’s owners have the right, based on their religious beliefs, to turn away same-sex couples, Paul replied: “I think it’s wrong. It’s a business. Our wedding is not going to change the beliefs of the owners or the people working there. We want the same respect that everyone else gets.”
He added: “Can this happen to trans couples as well? Is the venue going to ask what gender you were registered at birth? Must couples also fill in a form that says you are a Christian?”
MambaOnline emailed Du Kloof Lodge for confirmation of their interaction with Paul and their policy towards same-sex couples. We also asked if they are aware that rejecting same-sex couples is unconstitutional and illegal when providing a service to the public.
Louw acknowledged the email and said she would respond “as soon as we can”. After 24 hours, MambaOnline followed up telephonically. Louw said she needed to meet the owners and a lawyer and could not confirm when a response would be forthcoming. She further commented: “If it was up to me I would not reply,” that “we are not obliged to reply,” and “do not count on us [for a reply].”
“This speaks to the continued reality of discrimination experienced by the queer community in South Africa…”
The latest incident comes in the wake of the high profile case of same-sex couple Sasha-Lee Heekes and Megan Watling who were turned away by Beloftebos in Stanford in January. The owners said this was due to their “Biblical conviction… that marriage is reserved for a life-long commitment between one man and one woman.”
The matter is set to be heard in the Equality Court with two separate cases in the pipeline; one led by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the other by the couple themselves.
In a statement to MambaOnline, Heekes and Watling commented: “We are heartbroken to hear that another couple has been refused by a wedding venue due to their same-sex relationship. Having experienced this ourselves, it is a humiliating and degrading experience in what should be a joyous time.”
The two women said they respected the couple’s decision to remain anonymous, “given the hateful comments and messages we have received.” However, they continued, “this speaks to the continued reality of discrimination experienced by the queer community in South Africa, and highlights the importance of our case, in which we are asking for equality and for our right to equality and human dignity to be upheld by service providers, regardless of our sexual orientation.”
They added: “Given Covid-19 and lockdown, our case has been paused. As soon as the courts are fully functional again, we will resume our fight for equal rights.”
Under the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, it is illegal to deny public services to people based on their sexual orientation. Legal and constitutional experts further argue that turning away members of groups protected by the Bill of Rights when providing a public service is unconstitutional.
MambaOnline reached out to Confetti.co.za, which links the public to wedding service providers. Owner Mark Garbers said this was the first time he had faced this issue.
“We’re against discrimination of any type and I’m sorry for the experience your couple has had,” he said. Garbers promised to remove Du Kloof’s listing and that of any other venues that discriminate against same-sex couples.
He urged the LGBTQ community to let the site know if they’ve been turned away by a venue as a result of their sexuality. “I want Confetti to be the best possible wedding website for all South African couples, regardless of sexuality,” Garbers added.
Meanwhile, Paul and his partner are still deciding if they will take any action against Du Kloof, such as lodging a complaint with the SAHRC. “To be honest I don’t even know what the next step is or how do deal with this. I am still in shock,” he said.
*Not his real name