LODI — A same-sex couple from Sacramento says they will not be having their wedding at an Acampo winery, even after the business apologized for discriminating against them.
Dezanea Reyes and her fiancee Alex Biddle wanted to tie the knot at the Viaggio Estate and Winery and had inquired about the cost to hold their ceremony and reception there on Sept. 6.
Reyes, 25, said she told the winery’s event coordinator that she and Biddle, also 25, were a same-sex couple in her initial correspondence.
Later that day, Reyes said she received an email stating the winery had never hosted a same-sex marriage before, and that the couple would not be allowed to hold the ceremony on the 23-acre estate due to the owner’s religious beliefs.
They would, however, be allowed to have the reception and photos taken on the property.
“If they had just said ‘we’ve never had a same sex marriage at the winery, we have our religious beliefs, but if you come sit down with us and talk,’ then it would have taken a different route,” Reyes said.
In emails between Reyes and Viaggio provided to the News-Sentinel, owner Teri Lawrence said the couple could arrive at the winery in their wedding attire for photos during the day or evening.
She added the winery often hosts wedding celebrations without the ceremony.
In a media statement issued late Wednesday, Lawrence said the winery welcomes all couples, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, to the venue for wedding ceremonies.
Lawrence added exploring options for the couple to still celebrate their marriage at the winery was hurtful to them.
“Our staff, our customers and our community have helped me see that I was wrong,” she said in the media statement. “Our policy has changed, effective immediately. All couples are welcome to hire our facilities for weddings and the celebrations that go with them. I am sincerely sorry to have caused anyone pain at a time that should be joyous.”
Reyes said she received an apology via email as well, but has decided to look at other venues for her wedding.
“They publicly issued some sort of apology stating they’ve changed their policy,” Reyes said. “But I’m unaware that they had any sort of policy like that. They are entitled to their religious beliefs. It’s more of the business side of things that bothers me.”
Friends of the couple said the winery was violating the Unruh Civil Rights Act, A California law that prohibits businesses from discriminating against customers based on sex, race, religion, age and sexual orientation, among other characteristics.
The applies to all businesses in the state, including hotels and motels, restaurants, retail establishments and bars.
Leslie Gielow Jacobs, the director of the Capital Center for Law and Policy and a professor of civil rights law at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, said wineries are also subject to the law.
“(Viaggio) is a place of public accommodation,” she said. “It’s opening itself up for business to the public, and not only are they selling wine to merchants, they’re selling wine to the general community and offering space for accommodations.”
Last year, the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment sued a Kern County bakery for refusing to make a custom-cake for a same-sex marriage based on the owner’s religious beliefs.
A Supreme Court Judge in that county issued a preliminary injunction that ruled Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller could continue to refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples.
In his ruling, Judge David Lampe said the Unruh Civil Rights Act violated Miller’s First Amendment Rights, and that she was an artist producing cakes — which he found were protected artistic expressions.
Although Lampe issued the preliminary injunction, Jacobs said the Supreme Court has not ruled whether the bakery had the religious right to deny service to the couple.
Reyes said she wasn’t going to pursue a lawsuit against Viaggio, but wanted to let people know that despite state law prohibiting discrimination, it still exists.
“For the most part, I just want to let people know that this is still going on in California,” Reyes said. “(Viaggio) should make it clear when they first communicate with people for weddings that this is what they are leaning towards.”