BONITA, Calif. — A South Bay wedding chapel is facing complaints after a same sex couple says they were discriminated against while trying to getting married there.
The couple who tried to get married at Anytime Wedding Chapel in Bonita didn't want to go on camera, but their advocates say the gay couple was denied a wedding ceremony.
Deborah Gordon says on Friday afternoon, a gay couple called Anytime Wedding Chapel to plan their nuptials.
“The person who answered the phone blatantly said, ‘we do not officiate weddings for same sex couples,’” said Gordon, EdD.
The officiant who wrote her dissertation about same sex weddings says that’s when the couple reached out to her at Minister Deb Weddings.
“What I think was most upsetting for the couple was that because this is their first time ever reaching out to a vendor, they thought this was the norm,” said Gordon.
She says in the hundreds of weddings she’s officiated and dealt with vendors not one has had issue with same sex weddings. She says this is not the norm but Anytime Wedding Chapel has made it their norm.
Countless Facebook and one-star reviews on Yelp dating back to 2015 complain about the Chapel not serving same sex couples. Responders appear to come from the business claiming refusal because of religious beliefs.
Gordon says she followed up and called the Chapel herself to inquire about renewing her vows with her partner.
“Then they proceeded to tell me the same exact line, 'we do not do officiate same sex, anything or allow any same sex couples to have any sort of celebration in our venue,'” said Gordon.
In one of the Facebook reviews, it appears the business responded citing the protection of California Family Code 400.
“It is completely inapplicable in this situation. It really doesn't apply to a for-profit company that puts together weddings for people,” said Jacqueline Vinaccia, trial attorney and partner at Vanst Law.
Vinaccia is also a member of Equality California that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights.
She says this family code only protects an individual officiant not a business because of religious beliefs.
“This is blatant discrimination,” said Vinaccia.
News 8 called Anytime Wedding Chapel and the woman who answered the phone said she wouldn’t comment until she talked to legal counsel and hung up.
“It would be likely to not stand up in court I imagine,” said Vinaccia.
Despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a Colorado baker in 2018 who refused to make a cake for a same sex wedding, Vinaccia says that was specific to that case and justices still urged civility in future cases.
“For the most part in California the courts have found that anti-discrimination laws extend to same sex couples,” said Vinaccia.
LGBTQ+ advocates hope the Chapel will do the right thing before it ends up in court.
“My goal for all of this is that anytime wedding chapel changes their discriminatory practice,” said Gordon.
Vinaccia says law enforcement does not typically respond to incidents like this rather a lawsuit would need to be filed against the Chapel in civil court.
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