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South African Court declares religion no excuse to discriminate

In a groundbreaking settlement the Equality Court in Cape Town has agreed that owners of a guesthouse cannot use their religious beliefs to turn away gay customers.

Neil Coulson and his husband Jonathan Sedgwick were denied accommodation in November 2013 by the House of Bread in the town of Wolseley, near Ceres, because their sexual orientation was in conflict with the owners’ Christian views.

The men, who are Christians themselves, wanted to be in the area to be near their son who was going to attend a school camp. They were humiliatingly told that the venue was not “gay friendly.”

The couple, assisted by the SA Human Rights Commission, took guesthouse owners Marina and Steph Neethling to the Equality Court which last year referred the matter to mediation rather than making a ruling.

This, week, however the case was finally settled in the Equality Court, with the owners apologising for their actions and promising to not discriminate against LGBT people in future, failing which they will be in contempt of court.

The South African Constitution provides for full equality to include sexual orientation and gender identity. There are also laws against hate speech in South Africa.

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