A same-sex couple, who were turned away from the Beloftebos wedding venue, say while the country has had marriage equality since 2006, it is clear discrimination is still a lived reality for some in the LGBTQIA+ community and this needs to change.
In an emotional interview with News24 in Cape Town this week, Megan Watling and Sasha-Lee Heekes shared their pain at being rejected and explained why they were taking the owners of the venue in Stanford to the Equality Court.
"It has taken us a long time to accept ourselves. We have never had an issue accepting our love because it really is beautiful and it's the love that great poets write about," said Heekes.
"To be rejected outright before they even knew us, simply because we were the same gender, really, really hurts."
The two, who met in high school and had been dating for many years, had been on a high following their engagement in the Cederberg.
Touching her sparkly vintage-style engagement ring every now and then, Heekes explained they wanted a "fairy tale, forest kind of theme" for their 2021 wedding and a photographer friend recommended a few venues to them, which they followed up on.
Beloftebos asked them to fill out an enquiry form before receiving further details about menus and prices.
"It did ask for the bride and groom's details... We put Miss on both of them and gave our details around January 7 when we were sending out feelers for venues."
Watling happened to be in Stanford with their maid of honour and decided to drop in at Beloftebos to have a look around.
"I get an excited phone call while I am on the bus on the way home from work [with Megan saying]: 'Sash, this place has hydrangeas. You love hydrangeas. It's beautiful.'"
After following up with the venue a few times, Heekes said they then got a response stating the venue would not host them because they were the same gender.
They were also sent a link to their media statement, which shares that their biblical conviction is that marriage is reserved for a life-long commitment between one man and one woman.
Heekes said the saga was not actually about the venue because they had not decided on Beloftebos as the "one". It was more the discrimination they feel they experienced, she added, getting emotional.
"There aren't words to describe the hurt that it feels to have that door slammed in your face and the way it was clothed in kind of politeness when I don't believe there is a polite way to tell someone that you can't host them otherwise you are going to hell, before you even know me. It's horrible."
Heekes could not believe that a public business would outright announce that it would not host a couple because of their gender.
"I can't tell you how little things like that just make you afraid, they make you scared to be out and to be who you are," she said.
Watling and Heekes said while their immediate families were supportive, they had not lived an open relationship out of fear of discrimination.
'I don't begrudge'
"I can't believe that they would turn us away on the basis of something that we can't change, quoting the Bible as the reason for this and their Christian beliefs. I don't begrudge them but to use that to discriminate unfairly, it's just horrible."
The couple will approach the Equality Court in Cape Town after being advised that Beloftebos' conduct was in contravention of the Constitution and Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.
"Silence on the matter, turning around and saying that the rights have been won just because we have it on paper, doesn't mean that we have equality and I feel like this is an example of that," said Heekes.
Watling added they were prepared to fight the case out in court, even if it took years.
"We feel empowered... We are confident enough in our relationship and love to take this on and to show other people that equality is important for everyone."
Heekes said she had faith in the Constitution and the values enshrined in it.
"I love our Constitution, I love this country and I know we have a lot of healing to do but if we remain silent, things won't change and that's why we will not be silent."