Despite Craig Marks refusing to make Candice van Eck and her partner an engagement ring, the couple later got engaged in Greece with another ring
Craig Marks, a Cape Town-based online jeweller, has again been accused of LGBTIQ+ discrimination by refusing to sell engagement rings to same-sex couples because of the owner’s Christian beliefs.
When quantity surveyor Candice van Eck decided earlier this year to propose to her partner, she started looking for the ideal diamond ring for the special occasion.
“We’re originally from Joburg and moved to PE and there wasn’t much variety around here,” van Eck tells MambaOnline. She turned to online retailers and came across the Craig Marks website which offers “custom-made fine jewellery”.
Finding just what she’d been looking for on the website, she excitedly contacted the company and spoke to owner Craig Mark Quinton. During their conversation about the ring’s settings and size, she casually referenced that her partner was a woman.
“I loved this diamond, it was perfect,” says van Eck. However, when she tried to follow up with Quinton about the ring, she found herself being ghosted. “I kept sending him emails waiting for the settings with no response. And then I tried to call him. He ignored me. Then I tried off my mom’s phone and he answered.”
“It made me feel that we are not good enough…”
Van Eck says that Quinton apologised and promised to reply to her via email. When he did email her on 30 March, Van Eck was stunned by his response.
“You did mention on the phone that it’s an engagement ring for a female partner,” wrote the jeweller.
“We, unfortunately, do not provide rings for the purposes of engagement or marriage for same sex couples. This is out of faith towards God as he has said between man and woman.”
He added that he’d be happy to help her if she was looking for any other kinds of jewellery.
“It made me feel that we are not good enough,” says Van Eck. “It’s so brazen and entitled. I actually cried afterwards – it’s meant to be something special and he made me feel that I’m doing something completely wrong.”
Determined to not allow the disappointment and humiliation sour her engagement, van Eck put the matter aside for the time being. Finding another ring, she and her partner got engaged in July in Greece at sunset overlooking the ocean.
Despite the happy outcome of her proposal, she couldn’t let go of the troubling incident. “It sat with me and bothered me, and I thought ‘I don’t want to let this just go by’. I felt quite upset and disheartened by it.”
Van Eck is now considering lodging a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission or the Equality Court. She’s also been in touch with OUT LGBT Well-being’s legal clinic for support.
“I’ve been fortunate to not have experienced a lot of discrimination in my life and this is one of the first big acts towards me. I can only imagine what other people are facing every day. That’s why I want to take it further.”
Businesses are not allowed to continue to humiliate LGBTIQ+ people by treating them as second-class citizens
In 2019, Quinton made headlines for refusing to sell an engagement ring to another same-sex couple, telling the women that “we follow Christ and do not want to partake in what God calls sin which is a man with a man or woman with a woman.”
He and his company faced a significant backlash from the LGBTIQ+ community and its supporters, with Quinton alleging that he’d been harassed and threatened because of his stance.
Forging an alliance with the conservative religious group, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA), he essentially argued that his constitutional right to religious freedom superseded the right of LGBTIQ+ people to equality and protection from discrimination,
“Business owners cannot deny services to LGBTIQ+ people based on their personal religious beliefs,” says OUT’s Human Rights Manager Lerato Phalakatshela. “Their religious beliefs cannot be brought into their professional public capacity as an excuse to discriminate against a protected group.”
Phalakatshela added: “This company’s actions are in violation of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act [also known as the Equality Act]. We urge the SA Human Rights Commission and the courts to take action to ensure that businesses are not allowed to continue to humiliate LGBTIQ+ people by treating them as second-class citizens.”
MambaOnline contacted Quinton requesting comment and asking if it remained his company’s policy to refuse to sell engagement rings to same-sex couples. He had not replied at the time of publishing this article.