Emile Butler (pictured) and his fiance, Gareth O'Brien, were refused permission to wed on the wine farm of their choice, Diemerskloof, as a result of their sexual orientation. PICTURE: CANDICE CHAPLIN

Cape Town - The plight of the gay couple snubbed because of their sexuality by their wedding venue of choice has sparked an online debate, and now the owners of the wine estate in question could find themselves on the wrong end of the law.

At issue is the right of a business owner to reserve admission, versus gay rights. In terms of the constitution, gay rights win. And the couple have been advised to fight their case in the Equality Court.

Saturday Star featured the story of Emile Butler and Gareth O’Brien last weekend. They had planned to wed at Diemerskraal wine estate in Paarl but were turned down by owners Daan and Jeanette Morkel, who said they couldn’t “find it in our hearts” to allow a gay couple to get married on their property.

Comments on IOL label the gay couple “drama queens” and advise them to “just accept it and move on”.

But constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos warns that owners’ right to reserve admission is not an absolute right.

The Equality Act in the Bill of Rights states clearly that “no person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds”.

These include “race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth”.

According to Butler, he and O’Brien are choosing to ignore the negative comments online and focus on the positive.

“They can say whatever they want, but I am standing up for what I truly believe in,” Butler said.

“It’s my life, it’s my cause, and what they did is illegal.”

The couple have also received plenty of support on Twitter, with many people expressing their disgust at the Morkels, and threatening to boycott Diemerskraal.


The Human Rights Commission told Butler this week that the allegations had been sent to the Morkels.


Daan Morkel acknowledged that he had been contacted by the commission, to which the couple directed a complaint last week.

He said he and his wife had been advised not to discuss the issue further until it had been resolved.


Butler and O’Brien will also wait for the outcome of their complaint, but say they will look at taking their complaint to the Equality Court.


Saturday Star