CAPE TOWN - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says they are encouraged by a settlement proposal from the owners of Beloftesbos, the wedding venue which was taken to court after they declined to host and organise the celebration of a same-sex marriage.
The owners of the establishment had this week written to the SAHRC in an attempt to “amicably resolve” the matter, which has been ongoing for more than two years.
They also decided that Beloftebos would no longer be available as a wedding venue to the general public, and the link on their website with reference to weddings has been removed.
“We live in a society where our Constitution encourages us to be united in our diversity”, said Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) executive director, Michael Swain said.
“The owners of Beloftebos have stated clearly and consistently that the issue has always been about their sincere and deeply held convictions on the sacrament of marriage. It has never been about the sexual orientation of any person and they have at every opportunity made it crystal clear that they fully respect and recognise the constitutional rights of the LGBTIQ+ community.”
In their proposal to the SAHRC, the owners of Beloftebos state that any agreement reached between them would be fact specific to the present matter and could not be used as a precedent in any other matter. They also asked that the SAHRC, “accept (without having to agree with them) that their bona fide and intensely-held world view is that marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman. Further, that their views and beliefs regarding marriage are for considered and nuanced reasons which in turn are fundamental to their relationship with God, which relationship is central to all their activities”.
They added that they recognised that the SAHRC has a responsibility, "when anyone abuses their beliefs about marriage to undermine the dignity of people and to promote hatred, bigotry and prejudice against those who may have very different but equally intensely held beliefs about marriage, to take action“; and undertook to scrutinise their website and other means of communication to ensure that none of their content can be used ”cynically to abuse or to undermine the dignity and value of those whose belief systems regarding marriage may be strongly opposed to those which they hold themselves“.
In response, the SAHRC said they were encouraged by the proposal and would consider it.
“The Commission is encouraged by the settlement proposal from Beloftesbos, despite the significant passage of time since the incident occurred. The Commission will carefully consider the proposal. To this end, it will consult with its legal team.
“Any settlement that the Commission agrees to will, it hopes, vindicate the past infringement of the right of equality and dignity even though Beloftesbos will no longer operate as a wedding venue going forward. Its conduct has caused serious harm to the affected couples and has seriously undermined the constitutional project of equality for all,” Commissioner André Gaum said.
He added that once the Commission had taken a view in respect of the settlement, the public would be informed.