A California wedding venue is taking heat for turning away same-sex couples.
Viaggio Estate & Winery in Acampo has been telling customers they would be happy to host receptions for gay couples, but not actual weddings, according to two couples who tried to book the venue this month. Nikki Levy, a Los Angeles resident, says she emailed the winery on Saturday to inquire about hosting her wedding after she saw that another same-sex couple had been turned away earlier this month.
“I just couldn’t believe that they would respond that way,” she adds.
The issue first came to Levy’s attention when she saw a Facebook post published by Dezanea Reyes, who also tried to plan a wedding at the venue south of Sacramento only to be rejected, according to Reyes.
“I don’t want someone else to feel the way I did after getting those messages,” Reyes told NewNowNext.
Reyes eventually received an email saying that the venue would not host a same-sex marriage. Levy says she got the same email “yesterday,” with the venue’s owners “[putting] everything in writing.”
In an email provided to NewNowNext, Angelina Hodgson, a wedding director for the winery, writes that the venue has never hosted a same-sex wedding:
The owners also have very strong personal religious beliefs regarding marriage, which is for marriage to be between heterosexual couples only. They believe that the United States Constitution and the California Constitution protect these religious beliefs and their right to express them.
Meanwhile, Viaggio owner Teri Lawrence claims Levy never contacted them about booking a wedding.
“The first time we heard from her was two days ago, and she has been married longer than that,” Lawrence tells NewNowNext. “We are accepting [inquiries about] same-sex marriages at this time.”
Courtesy of Dezanea Reyes
Reyes (L) and her fiancée Alex Biddle (R).
That statement appears to contradict a recent message that the venue wrote on The Knot magazine’s wedding review site. In a post on the site’s forum, Reyes complained about being turned away. Viaggio responded that the couple was welcome to after the ceremony in their wedding clothes for a reception.
“It is the actual ceremony that would be violating the owners’ religious beliefs, and we cannot allow that at the Winery,” the venue wrote.
Levy, a lesbian, confirms that she got married on August 24, which is what made her especially sensitive to the reported discrimination against Reyes. She says she sent the email to Viaggio to see if she, too, would have been rejected.
“People should know that this place discriminates, but they’re happy to take your money anyway,” she says.
California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act explicitly bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations.
Fahizah Alim, deputy director of communications for the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, declined to comment on the case. But Alim directed NewNowNext to the Tastries Bakery lawsuit. In that case, the Department is seeking damages against a baker who refuses to wedding cakes for same-sex couples.