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Couple’s action against venue

A same-sex couple who made news headlines a week ago recently announced they were instituting legal proceedings against the owners of the Beloftebos wedding venue in the Equality Division of the Western Cape High Court.

This comes after Sasha-Lee Heekes (24) and Megan Watling (25) were denied access to Beloftebos outside Stanford as a venue for their wedding.

The owners informed the couple they would not be able to accommodate them because they do not host weddings for couples of the same gender on grounds of their religious belief (“Beloftebos ‘no’ to same-sex nuptiuals,” Hermanus Times, 23 January).

Heekes and Watling issued a press release on 23 January, which reads: “After careful consideration, and in recognition of how such an incident is indicative of the broader lived reality of discrimination faced by the South African LGBTQIA+ community, we have decided on a course of action.

“We will institute action against [Beloftesbos’ owners] 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.

“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 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.’

“It was our instinctive reaction that the actions of the Beloftebos wedding venue did not rise to this ideal, and that the tone taken in their media statement was dismissive of this.”

Beloftebos declined to comment on the statement. But Michael Swain, who represents Beloftebos, confirmed the owners will comment once the court papers are filed.

André Gaum of the South African Human Rights Commission says he is aware the couple has laid a charge that will appear in the Equality Division of the Western Cape High Court.

“It is now in the hands of the high court,” he said. “We can, however, confirm that we are busy processing documents for Alex Lu and Alexandra Thorne, who also were refused by the owners in 2017. At this stage we are still waiting for a court date and will comment when there are new developments,” he concluded. “Our intention is to play our part in breaking the silence on the continued unquestioned and ungoverned use of personal beliefs as means to discriminate against South Africans on the margins, in this case, the LGBTQIA+ community,” the Heekes and Watling statement said. LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Genderqueer, Queer, Intersexed, Agender, Asexual, and Ally community.

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