Metro Weekly

Mississippi venue cites “Christian” faith as reason it won’t perform gay or “mixed race” marriages

People point to Mississippi's anti-LGBTQ "religious freedom" statutes as opening the door to other types of discrimination

Photo: LaKambria Welch, via Deep South Voice/YouTube.

A Mississippi event venue has come under intense criticism following the release of a video allegedly showing an employee saying they won’t host gay or “mixed race” weddings because of the owners’ Christian faith.

The video in question posted to Facebook by LaKambria Welch, a Mississippi resident who filmed a woman who allegedly worked at Boone’s Camp Event Hall in Booneville, Miss., to question her about their policies.

“FYI, if you’re a mixed-race couple, please do NOT inquire Boone’s Camp for a wedding venue,” Welch wrote in her Facebook post. “They will not accommodate you if you’re ‘gay’ or ‘mixed race’ due to their ‘Christian beliefs.'”

Welch said she decided to confront representatives for the event venue after her brother, who is black, was told that he could not rent the venue because he was marrying a white woman, with the venue’s owners citing their religious beliefs as justification.

“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,” Welch told the Deep South Voice website. “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.”

In the video in question, a woman whose face is obscured, but is believed to be the owner of the venue, says: “First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race — I mean our Christian belief,” the woman says.

Welch responds: “Okay, we’re Christians as well, so… What in the Bible tells you that?”

The woman says, “Well, I don’t want to argue my faith. We just don’t participate. We just choose not to.”

“Okay, so that’s your Christian belief, right?” Welch asks.

“Yes, ma’am,” the woman responds.

The video, which amassed more than 2 million views via Twitter and YouTube, has been reshared on social media and created a backlash so severe that Boone’s Camp Event Hall took down its Facebook page.

Prior to the deletion of the Facebook page, the woman in the video apparently posted an apology in which she blamed her own misunderstanding of what the Bible says about interracial relationships, according to The Washington Post.

“To all those offended, hurt, or felt condemn (sic) by my statement I truly apologize to you for my ignorance in not knowing the truth about this,” the now-deleted apology read. “My intent was never of racism, but to stand firm on what I ‘assumed’ was right concerning marriage.”

The woman explained that she believed the Bible supported her views on interracial marriage, and she only recently discovered that wasn’t the case.

She added that as “a child growing up in Mississippi,” it was an unspoken understanding that people stayed “with your own race.” But after her husband asked her to point to the parts of the Bible condemning interracial marriage, she couldn’t.

After spending hours scouring the text and sitting down with her pastor, she concluded that her reasoning for not performing interracial marriages was “incorrect.”

“As my bible reads, there are 2 requirements for marriage and race has nothing to do with either!” the Facebook post read. “All of my years I had ‘assumed’ in my mind that I was correct, but have never taken the opportunity to research and find whether this was correct or incorrect until now.

“If I have learned anything from this it would be to know what you’re talking about before you open your mouth! Again … my sincerest apologies to all!”

But Welch remained skeptical about the now-deleted apology, telling the Post: “I am 24 and have been brought up my entire life in a Christian Family; my granddad being a reverend. If I know that the Bible doesn’t say anything about biracial marriages, she knows too.”

The incident prompted the City of Booneville to issue a statement on its Facebook page stating: “The City Booneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status. Furthermore, the City of Booneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen do not condone or approve these types of discriminatory policies.”

The City of Booneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen are aware of the comments recently made by a privately owned…

Posted by City of Booneville on Monday, September 2, 2019

Several critics of the event hall’s owners noted that Mississippi has a “religious freedom” law allowing businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ people and same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs that oppose homosexuality, transgenderism, same-sex marriage, or any sexual activity outside of marriage.

That law, HB 1523, was preemptively struck down by a federal court, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and allowed the law to go into effect. 

Prior to passage of HB 1523, state lawmakers had also passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Ac that made it legal for individuals and businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ people so long as they cited a religious belief.

Critics of the law pointed to the incident involving Boone’s Camp Event Hall as a natural outgrowth of “religious freedom” laws like HB 1523, saying that once religious beliefs can be used to justify one type of discrimination, they can be used to justify other forms as well.

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, noted that her organization had argued in the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case that religious justifications for discrimination should not override equal treatment under the law.

“Our brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop warned that religious exemptions for LGBTQ discrimination must be understood in the context of Piggie Park,” Ifill said in an extended Twitter thread. “This woman epitomizes our precise argument against discrimination in the name of religious belief works in public accommodations & svcs.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s Michael Lieberman tweeted: “For all who thought — & for some who loudly proclaimed — that race was different, that religion would not be used to discriminate on the basis of race again, this story,” with a link to the Deep South Voice. “This discrimination will not stand. No #LicenseToDiscriminate.”

Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, also responded to the story.

“Religion should never be exploited as a license to discriminate,” David tweeted. “This incident is yet another glaring example of how white supremacy and anti-LGBTQ bigotry are not merely things of the past. We must take action against these blatantly illegal practices.”

See Welch’s video below:

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