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North Carolina Wedding Venue, Citing Christian Beliefs, Turns Away Same-Sex Couple

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A same-sex couple in North Carolina say an elegant wedding venue, Highgrove Estate in Fuquay-Varina, refuses to host gay weddings in a move that could soon be illegal as Congress weighs legislation to prohibit any action considered LGBTQ discrimination.

Attorney McCae Henderson and his fiancé, Ike Edwards, are set to be married this year and began searching venues across North Carolina. When they filled out a form on Highgrove Estate’s website, they noted being “groom and groom” because there were only boxes for “bride” and “groom.” In response, the couple says, the venue said it doesn’t host same-sex marriage ceremonies and it offered them a list of alternatives. The owners of Highgrove on Sunday sent the local ABC11 station a response that said “[they] do not discriminate” but rather “believe in the sanctity of marriage as God says in the Bible,” which is only between a man and a woman.

Federal and state civil rights laws have anti-discrimination protections in place for race, skin color, creed, religion, sex and national origin. Sexual orientation or gender identity are not protected under current laws.

But last month, the House passed an LGBTQ anti-discrimination law, the Equality Act, which seeks to make exactly this type of business culpable of discrimination should it pass the Senate.

The Senate Judiciary committee opened discussion on the Equality Act legislation this week, which revealed a deeply partisan fight ahead for it to pass. Senate Democrats will need 10 Republican senators to vote yes on the anti-discrimination legislation, which appeared unlikely early this week as each side appeared to talk past each other. Utah GOP Senator Mike Lee said the bill actually discriminates against religious institutions, which are protected under current laws.

“The language is rather significantly broad and would almost inevitably put this law in a position of occupying a more significant place with respect to religious institutions,” Lee said Monday.

In the meantime, the North Carolina couple say they are frustrated by the Highgrove Estate’s business decision not to host their upcoming wedding ceremony.

Disheartening is the word I would use,” Henderson, an attorney in Raleigh and groom-to-be told ABC11. “We had not had anything like this throughout the process or really in our lives.”

“This is us. We are gay and we did not choose to be gay,” Henderson told the local TV news station for a piece broadcast Sunday. “We don’t have access to things other people do is discrimination in my eyes. I think everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe to an extent.… I don’t think you get to be homophobic because your religion tells you to be homophobic.”

The venue, which has refused to host the couple’s wedding, issued a statement Sunday in response, describing its decision as purely business.

“Highgrove has always welcomed vendors, guests and employees of all orientations and we do not discriminate against a people or group. We believe in the sanctity of marriage as God says in the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman and we choose to honor Him above what the world decides what marriage should be,” the owners wrote.

The owners were also asked about the couple’s frustration and had the following response: “We have been respectful and kind when letting them know we are not the best fit for them. When magazines and others chose not to do business with us because of this position, we respected that decision. That is their right. We do not judge them or retaliate because they chose to not respect our religious beliefs. The argument can just as easily be the same for us as we’re being made to feel like the other. We are not the ones attacking, slandering and threatening others for their beliefs.”

The Liberty Buzz reached out to the Highgrove Estate on Monday afternoon but did not hear back by time of publishing.

The owners of the Highgrove Estate in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, which has refused to host the same-sex couple’s wedding, issued a statement Sunday in response, describing its decision as purely business.
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