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Unhappy duo: Venue turns away frustrated gay couple citing God's 'design for marriage'

Junie Sihlangu
Jan 31, 2019
01:00 P.M.
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Last year, a gay couple from Texas got engaged when they were on vacation in Europe. They started looking for wedding venues but instead they’ve had to deal with immense discrimination.

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One of the wedding venues that they loved ended up disappointing them when they revealed that they didn’t believe in hosting gay weddings. Now the couple is sharing their experience.

Aaron Lucero, 29, and Jeff Cannon, 48, got engaged last June and planned to have their country wedding in November, but finding the perfect venue has been a nightmare. The couple thought they found their dream venue, The Venue at Waterstone, in the city of Celina, but little did they know that their sexuality would be used against them.

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Lucero, who is a choir director in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district, has since written a Facebook message explaining how they were told they weren’t the right fit for the place. After falling in love with the place, the pair was supposed to tour it on January 20, but that didn’t happen.

Instead, they received an email they revealed they weren’t welcome anymore because of the owner’s “deeply held” religious beliefs. Cannon, who is a real estate investor, said: "Before that, we never even thought that we needed to tell people that we were, you know, doing a same-sex wedding."

He added, "We thought that a wedding is a wedding." In Lucero’s social media post he explained that they had signed up as a gay couple on the wedding-planning site The Knot, where they found the venue.

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The wedding-planning site and the venue’s site never mentioned that they do “not host gay weddings.” Lucero stated, “Had we known in advance that this venue was not LGBTQ+ friendly, we would not have given it a second thought.”

The shocking email they received from the venue’s owner, Lyle Wise, was what made them speak up. It read, in part:

“The design for marriage that we hold to is based upon the design He set forth which is a representation of the bride of Christ joined to the groom (Christ who is God we worship). Given His plan and design for marriage, we dare not veer from His instruction lest we be guilty of altering what he has set forth.”

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The couple was in shock and deeply disappointed as they’d already shared pictures of the venue with friends and family. The pair had been “very excited” at the possibility of hosting their wedding at the beautiful location.

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Lucero shared that the news was “heartbreaking” since the rejection came one day before they were set to view the venue. He and his fiancé shared that they were opening up about the incident to try and prevent others from going through the same thing.

His post further read:

“It is because they refuse to publicize their discriminatory policy on their website. They want to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community in private.”

He added:

“We respect their right to refuse service because in the State of Texas there are no laws to protect discrimination against sexual orientation. However, we don’t want any other gay couples to experience what we have been through this weekend.”

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In a statement, Wise said:

"We are a family of believers. We love all people because Christ first loved us; Jeffrey and Aaron included. We cannot violate the convictions God has placed within us. In love, we would never affirm anyone in something that was to their detriment."

The engaged couple is still looking for the perfect place to host their wedding because a number of the other venues they were interested in showed discrimination once approached. Lucero called them out for not stating from tget-go go on their websites that they don’t service the LGBTIQ+ community.

He noted that these companies “refuse to publicize their discriminatory policy on their website.” Instead, “They want to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community in private.”

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The Venue has since seen a loss of support after the couple shared their story online. Wise’s location was also removed by The Knot as one of its vendors.

Their spokesperson stated:

“Our company supports everyone’s right to marry the person they love and prohibits any vendor on our site from discriminating against a couple based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.”

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The couple has received a swarm of messages of support since the venue's denial made national news. Some people have even offered to officiate their wedding, while other venues have contacted the couple and encouraged them to take a tour.

In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins visited the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, to try and order a wedding cake. Instead, the owner Jack Phillips told them he wouldn’t bake a cake for a same-sex couple.

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The couple took the matter to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC), which decided against Phillips. However, the case ended up going to the US supreme court.

On June 4, 2018, they ruled 7-2 in favor of Phillips who had refused to give the couple service based on religious reasons. The court, however, avoided making a broader ruling on religious exemptions for businesses.

The commission found that the baker’s rights were violated under the first amendment, which guarantees freedom of expression.

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