An event venue in Mississippi is getting national attention because they allegedly don’t rent their space for same-sex or mixed race marriages. Why? They say it’s because of their “Christian belief.”
The state has one of the most sweeping “religious freedom” laws enacted as a way to legalize discrimination against LGBT people.
LaKambria Welch shared a video on Facebook over the weekend that she says shows her speaking with an representative of Boone’s Camp Event Hall in Booneville, Mississippi. She wanted to reserve the space for her brother’s wedding. Her brother is black and his fiancee is white.
“First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race— I mean, our Christian belief,” the representative says in the video.
Welch says that she’s Christian, so she asks where in the Bible the representative is getting her opposition to mixed-race and same-sex marriages, and she responds that she is unwilling “to argue my faith.”
“We just don’t participate,” the representative says. “We just choose not to.”
Welch told the Deep South Voice that she believes that the representative found out about her brother’s and future sister-in-law’s races through Facebook.
“The owner took a look at my brother’s fiancée’s page and wrote her back to say they won’t be able to get married there because of her beliefs,” she said. “He told my mom and she contacted the owner through messenger to only get a ‘seen’ with no reply. That’s when I took it upon myself to go get clarification on her beliefs.”
Another woman, Katelynn Springsteen, said that she was refused by the same venue in 2018 because she was looking for a place for her lesbian friends to get married.
“Thanks for checking with us Katelynn, but due to our Christian faith, we would not be able to accommodate you,” the venue told her via Facebook.
According to Mississippi’s Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, which was passed in 2016, businesses can discriminate on the basis of certain “deeply held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” All of the beliefs that are permissible excuses for discrimination are listed in the law and are all about LGBTQ people and sex outside of heterosexual marriage, even though Mississippi doesn’t ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The law does not mention race.
Mississippi Representative Robert Foster (R) supported the law and was asked earlier this year by the Jackson Free Press why he believes it’s OK to allow religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people but not on the basis of race.
“I think that’s completely different situation,” Foster said. “I just do, to me. It is not an issue, I think. I think race is completely different than getting somebody involved in a religious ceremony that goes against their core belief.”