Guest house gay row may return to court

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Cape Town - A dispute involving a gay couple who were turned away from a guest house in Wolseley could end up back in court.

Neil Coulson and his husband Jonathan Sedgwick tried to book accommodation at the House of Bread in November last year but were apparently refused on the basis that they were in a same-sex relationship.

The matter went to the Equality Court with Coulson cited as the complainant and the owners, Steph and Marina Neethling, as the respondents.

Speaking to the Cape Times, Coulson said the court had recently referred the matter for mediation.

While they were hoping it would not be referred because they felt the matter was a “clear-cut case of discrimination”, Coulson said he was quite eager for the mediation.

He believed that unless the guest house owners had a “change of heart” during the mediation process, however, the matter would end up back in court.

What he wanted was for the business to operate within the confines of the law.

Steph Neethling said the matter was all about respecting each other’s choices. He believed it could be sorted out if they discussed the issue around a table and both parties went into the mediation with a “positive attitude” and “open hearts”.

Keegan Lakay, the provincial legal officer for the Commission for Gender Equality in the Western Cape - which acted as one of two “friends of the court” - said they were “not very hopeful” that the matter would reach a resolution during the mediation process, in which case the matter could be put back on the court roll.

He was of the view that while the mediation process would be followed, the matter would end up back in court.

Andrew Selley, founder and chief executive of Freedom of Religion SA (FOR SA), the other “friend of the court” in the case, said equality legislation, as well as the Human Rights Commission Act and the Commission on Gender Equality Act, expressed a “clear preference” for conciliation and mediation rather than litigation.

FOR SA and the guest house owners remained hopeful that the matter could be resolved, said Selley.

Coulson said: “We are not doing this for personal gain. We are not asking for money. We are asking to prevent this from happening to other people because we know how hurtful and damaging it can be.”

Neethling said: “It’s all about choices. I decided that I will walk only one path and that is the path of the Bible… All I’m saying is to respect my choice. We’re respecting his choice.”

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Cape Times


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