Mississippi wedding venue cites 'Christian belief' in rejecting interracial couple, then apologizes
The owner of a wedding venue in Mississippi who cited "Christian belief" in turning away an interracial couple has apologized.
LaKambria Welch told NBC News on Tuesday that her brother, who is black, and his fiancée, who is white, had been considering booking the event hall for their wedding.
They had been communicating with an owner of the venue for about a week when they were suddenly told they could not get married there for a reason having to do with beliefs.
Welch, 24, said she suspected the hall's operators had discovered the couple's races through Facebook and went to talk to them in person.
The woman at the venue in the video is not identified. During the under-30-second clip recorded Saturday, the woman tells Welch, “First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race."
Welch responds: "OK. So why not?"
"Because of our Christian race — I mean, our Christian belief,” the woman says.
"OK. We're Christians as well, so what in the Bible tells you that," Welch responds, before she is interrupted by the woman, who tells her, "Well, I don't want to argue my faith."
Welch then says, "That's fine" and the woman replies: "We just don't participate. We just choose not to."
Welch asks her: "So that's your Christian belief, right?" The woman responds, "Yes."
On Tuesday, Welch told NBC News that after leaving the venue, she was "a bit upset, as to be expected, but to be honest," knew deep down what the owner meant by her "beliefs."
The video posted by Deep South Voice on Saturday had been viewed more than 2 million times on Twitter and YouTube as of Tuesday morning and prompted calls for the event hall to be shuttered. The business' Facebook page was taken down over the weekend.
Boone’s Camp Event Hall could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Mississippi passed a "religious freedom" law in 2016 allowing merchants and government employees to cite religious beliefs in denying services to same-sex couples. Many critics of the incident at Boone's Camp Event Hall noted that this law does not mention race.
The City of Booneville released a statement Monday in response to the woman in Welch's video.
“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,” officials said in a statement posted to Facebook on Monday. “Furthermore, the City of Booneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen do not condone or approve these types of discriminatory policies.”
The Boone's Camp Event Hall Facebook page was briefly restored Sunday and an apology posted to it, apparently by the woman in the video.
The post said, in part, “as a child growing up in Mississippi our racial boundaries that were unstated were that of staying with your own race."
The post continued: “My husband asked me to show him in the Bible where it was located as to the 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 author of the Facebook post wrote that she spent Saturday and most of Sunday “searching,” and after a meeting with her pastor, “I have come to the conclusion my decision which was based on what I had thought was correct to be supported by the Bible was incorrect.”
Welch told NBC News on Tuesday that she, her brother and his fiancée accept the owner's apology and that the couple is not going to get married at the venue.
"I’ve stated that I am a Christian as well," Welch said. "So, growing up, my grandmother would always tell me to forgive, even without an apology. I’ve always lived by that with everything."