The owners of a California winery are backtracking on their refusal to host a same-sex couple’s wedding, saying the local community’s response to the news helped them to see they were “wrong.”
Alexandria Biddle and Dezanea Reyes, who got engaged in August, said they reached to Viaggio Estate & Winery in Acampo, California, earlier this month about their forthcoming nuptials. On Sept. 5, they received an email response from an on-site wedding coordinator that said the winery’s owners, Larry and Teri Lawrence, had never hosted a same-sex wedding on their property before.
The Lawrences “have very strong personal religious beliefs regarding marriage, which is for marriage to be between heterosexual couples only,” the email added. As such, Biddle and Reyes would be permitted to hire the venue for their reception, but not their ceremony.
“I understand and am not opposed to people having their own personal religious beliefs [but] I just fell shunned by people who do not know me,” Reyes wrote on Facebook, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I will still have a beautiful wedding when my time comes. I just want others to be aware of this venue ... so our LGBTQ community knows about this venue so when they do start looking [for wedding venues], they can be aware.”
Levy, who identifies as a lesbian and recently got married herself, reached out to Viaggio Estate & Winery ― and got a very similar response.
On Tuesday, she shared screenshots of the exchange on Facebook.
“I couldn’t believe that this would happen in California, and I couldn’t believe that someone would be so openly homophobic,” Levy told local NBC affiliate KCRA. “If you don’t like gay people, and you don’t believe because of your religious beliefs that they should be married, don’t go and have a place that holds weddings.”
By Wednesday, Teri Lawrence announced that the winery would no longer object to same-sex weddings, and said she was “sincerely sorry to have caused anyone pain at a time that should be joyous.”
“In recent communications with potential visitors, I tried to explore options for celebrations that would accommodate both my religious beliefs and the expectations of our community,” she said in a prepared statement. “I realize now that contrary to my intent, this was hurtful to the people involved.”
“Our staff, our customers and our community have helped me see that I was wrong,” the statement continued. “Our policy has been changed, effective immediately.”
Though Reyes plans to host her wedding elsewhere, she nonetheless said she wishes “the best” for Viaggio, and is hopeful the debacle “opens their eyes that they should be open to other people.”
“At the end of the day, love is love,” she told KCRA.