Cape Town - For Emile Butler, Diemerskraal wine estate in Paarl would have been the perfect venue to marry his fiancé, “the most stunning man in the world”, Gareth O’Brien.
But their hopes were dashed when the owners of the estate, Daan and Jeanette Morkel, decided that it “didn’t feel right” to allow the gay couple to marry on their property.
The couple, who got engaged in Kalk Bay on March 9, have been left very hurt by the decision, but say they don’t want anything from the Morkels other than an “honest apology”.
“We were very excited about Diemerskraal. One of my friends got married there. We knew exactly who would have sat where. It would have been perfect.
“(We) just wanted to share our happiness with friends and family at the wedding, but Diemerskraal denied us the right to do so at the venue of our choice,” an upset Butler told Weekend Argus this week.
“Why is my money not good enough for Diemerskraal?” he asked.
The decision has resulted in their wedding plans now being seriously delayed as the couple begin looking at other venues – which are luckily proving to be far more accommodating.
The reality is, however, that many are out of the couple’s budget range, so they now need more time to save for their big day.
Butler said that while Cape Town was mostly open-minded about gay people, he couldn’t say the same of the country’s small-town mindset.
”I can’t believe that in this day and age it is not okay to be gay in South Africa,” he said.
After repeatedly asking Diemerskraal via SMS and e-mail to contact him, Butler explained that he finally received an SMS saying that the owners “couldn’t find it in their hearts” to let the couple have their wedding and reception at Diemerskraal.
Approached for comment on the decision, Jeanette Morkel, who spoke to Weekend Argus on behalf of herself and her husband Daan, said that while she respected the couple, and “give them all the blessings I can”, they could not agree to host the wedding.
She said they were sorry the couple were angry, adding that “we never tried to hurt (Butler) or discriminate against them”.
But as she and her husband respected the gay couple, they asked for the couple to respect them too.
“I’m not at peace with the situation, and the response I’ve got just means that I’m right to trust my intuition. They said they won’t leave it like this, and that we’re discriminating against them,” Morkel said.
But Butler said he decided to speak out because he felt discriminated against, but also to be a voice “for everyone” who could be similarly affected. For this reason, he had approached the Human Rights Commission to lodge a complaint.
“They say that I have a case, so I am going to leave it in their capable hands,” he said.
Butler recalled that the process of “coming out” to his friends and family in his late 30s was a “horrifying experience”. He wrote a letter to his father, with whom he found it hardest to communicate.
But his father had responded: “I’ve read your letter twice, and I don’t have a problem as long as you are happy.”
After they do get their dream wedding, the couple have dreams of living on a farm, adopting “all of the dogs at the SPCA”, and then hopefully moving on to children.