The owner of a wedding venue in Booneville, Miss., told a mixed-race couple that the facility could not host their nuptials because interracial marriage is against her religious beliefs.
LaKambria S. Welch, the sister of the groom-to-be, told The Washington Post that her brother and his fiancée were turned away from Boone’s Camp Event Hall by the owner.
Seeking an explanation, Welch drove to the facility and confronted a woman who worked there. Welch filmed the encounter, and during it, the woman can be heard telling her, “First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race … because of our Christian race, I mean, our Christian belief.”
When Welch told the woman that the couple are Christian, the woman replied that it didn’t matter, saying, “We just don’t participate. We just choose not to.”
Welch posted the video online, and it quickly went viral. The site DeepSouthVoice picked up the story, and it was soon reported by other media outlets.
Mississippi has a law that allows businesses to cite “religious freedom” to deny services to members of the LGBTQ community, but it doesn’t mention race.
Officials in the city of Booneville, a community of about 9,000 residents in the northeastern portion of the state, issued a statement decrying discrimination.
“The City of 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,” read the statement, which was posted to Facebook. “Furthermore, the City of Booneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen do not condone or approve these types of discriminatory policies.”
As the controversy grew, the owner of the facility posted a lengthy apology to the Facebook page of Boone’s Camp Event Hall. In the apology, the owner claimed that she was not aware that the Bible did not condemn interracial marriages until she read it more closely and consulted with her pastor.
“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.” It also said, “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!”
The Boone’s Camp Event Hall Facebook page was later deleted.