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The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is conducting a probe after the owners of a farm wedding venue withdrew permission for a lesbian couple to be married there.
Leanne Brown-Waterson and her partner Christelle had chosen the Kilcairn farm near Wellington as the place where they wanted to tie the knot.
They were initially welcomed by Kilcairn manager Cara King, but later King told them that the farm’s owner was against hosting same-sex marriages on the farm.
“It is worrying that despite the progressive laws prohibiting violence or any form of discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, we still have incidents such as this.
“The commission has constantly condemned all forms of intolerance and we are conducting a preliminary investigation into this particular matter to ascertain what happened,” SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena said on Thursday.
He said denying same-sex weddings at even a private venue was unacceptable, no matter what the owners’ views were. “They are not allowed to discriminate against anyone under our law, which provides for the right to equality to everyone,” he said.
Brown-Waterson had told Mambaonline how she and her partner were initially welcomed by King at the venue on March 2. Their wedding date of January 17, 2015 was confirmed, but days later King informed them via e-mail: “Unfortunately I have to share with you some bad news… ”
The farm’s owners were unwilling to host same-sex marriages at the farm, King told them.
“It’s embarrassing and very disheartening to go through the whole process and then be told that it’s not on anymore like this. It’s the first time that I’ve ever been discriminated against.
“It’s a reality check that people’s attitudes haven’t adjusted much in the country,” Brown-Waterson told Mambaonline.
King refused to comment when contacted and said Kilcairn’s owners also had no comment.
Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos slammed the farmowners’ action. “There is a widespread misconception that if you are a private company, that you are entitled to discriminate,” he said.
“This is wrong, because the law is clear that no business can discriminate against anyone. They cannot use their own religious beliefs or right to freedom of association as an excuse,” De Vos said.
The farmowners were breaking the law because the couple’s rights were protected in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act and the constitution, he said.
Triangle Project director Leslie Lidell said: “Clearly this is not right in terms of our constitution. Same-sex marriages are legal in South Africa. If people open their premises to the public, then they have to abide by the constitution, which talks about equality for all.
“This kind of homophobic attitude is ridiculous.”