A Mississippi event hall apparently refused to rent the space to an interracial couple for their wedding, citing the owners’ “religious beliefs,” a video posted by the groom’s sister who recorded a conversation with an employee shows.
LaKambria Welch, 24, drove to Boone’s Camp Event Hall in Booneville, Mississippi, over Labor Day weekend to confront the owner about why her brother’s request to book the venue was denied, she told Deep South Voice, which first reported the story.
Welch’s brother, who is black, and his white fiancee were in contact with the owner of the venue but suddenly received a message that they would not be permitted to rent the space because of the venue’s “beliefs,” Welch told the outlet. The couple had already booked a date to tour the space when they received the message, Welch told The Washington Post.
Welch recorded her encounter with a woman at the venue, which begins as the employee says, “First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race — I mean, our Christian beliefs.”
When Welch replies that her family is “Christian as well,” and asks where in the Bible race is mentioned, the woman says, “Well, I don’t want to argue my faith.”
“Yeah, we just don’t participate,” the woman says. “We just choose not to.”
Welch then confirms, “OK, so that’s your Christian belief,” right?” To which the woman replies, “Yes ma’am.”
Welch told ABC News via email that the conversation left her “shaking,” even though she sounded calm in the video.
“It really broke my heart to actually hear her say those things,” she wrote.
Welch said the encounter was her “first direct contact with pure racism.”
“And many people think I should be used to it because I grew up here,” she wrote. “That’s not the case.”
Welch told Deep South Voice that she believes the owner rejected her brother’s request after looking at his fiancee’s Facebook and seeing that they’re a mixed-race couple. They are both 20 and just recently got engaged after more than three years of dating, Welch told ABC News.
Several venues have reached out to the couple since their story went public, but they haven’t picked one yet, Welch said.
The event hall’s Facebook page was taken down after the video was posted over the weekend, according to Deep Voice South. On Sunday, the account was reinstated, and a lengthy apology was posted, Newsweek reported. But as of Tuesday, the page was deleted once again.
A screenshot of the apology reads, “…as a child growing up in Mississippi our racial boundaries were unstated were that of staying with your own race.”
“This was never verbally spoken, but it was an understood subject,” the post stated.
The writer stated that her husband asked her to point out in the Bible where it covers “content concerning biracial relationships.”
“I studied for a minute and began to think about the history of my learning this and where it came from,” the apology read.
The writer eventually conceded that she could not find any passages to “support” her decision and that she was “incorrect.”
“I have, for many years, stood firm on my Christian faith not knowing that biracial relationships were NEVER mentioned in The Bible!” she wrote.
The phone line for the venue had disconnected as of Tuesday. ABC News also could not immediately reach the event hall’s listed owners, Booneville residents David and Donna Russell, for comment.
Another woman, Katelynn Springsteen, sent Deep Voice South a screenshot of her exchange with the venue on Facebook messenger in September 2018, in which she inquired whether they would be “okay” with a gay marriage ceremony.
“Thanks for checking with us, Katelynn, but due to our Christian faith we would not be able to accommodate you,” the venue replied.
Springsteen told Deep Voice South that she was searching for a space for her best friend, who is a lesbian.
A statement from Booneville City Hall posted to Facebook on Monday states that the mayor and city officials “do not condone or approve these types of discriminatory policies.”
“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,” the statement read.
In 2016, Mississippi passed House Bill 1523, the “religious freedom” law that protects the religious beliefs and moral convictions of businesses, allowing them to decline products and services to people whose lifestyles violate those beliefs and convictions.
The law protects beliefs about same-sex marriages and transgender people. It does not mention race, according to Deep South Voice.