Beloftebos homophobia row heads to Equality Court

Sasha-Lee Heekes and Megan Watling
When engaged couple Sasha-Lee Heekes and Megan Watling approached the Beloftebos venue in Western Cape village of Stanford as a possible venue for their wedding, they were told that “based on our personal beliefs, we do not host weddings between couples of the same gender”.

The owner, Coia de Villiers, believes that their right to freedom of religion entitles them to refuse to offer services to same-sex couples. The furore surrounding the venue garnered the attention of an international audience; with CNN reporting about the scandal and the Stanford Association of Tourism &
Business (ST&B) said it “deeply regrets the situation which has arisen resulting from a same-sex couple seeking to marry at a local wedding venue”.

In a statement by Beloftebos, represented by Freedom of Religion South Africa (FORSA), they told CNN that, “LGBT rights do not trump religious rights under South Africa’s constitution. The owners don’t just rent out the venue, they are also actively involved in the arrangement, which they are simply saying
they do not believe they can do in good conscience”.

However, the couple is going to courts to fight for their right to equality and dignity, after it was revealed that a similar incident happened to another same-sex couple in 2017.

“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.

“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”.

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’.”

Around 2,000 people have signed a petition demanding the SAHRC take action against Beloftebos.

Meanwhile, the couple have launched a campaign called Same Love to encourage people to join them on their social media platforms.