ACAMPO (CBS13) – Viaggio Estate and Winery is under scrutiny for denying a same-sex couple the use of their venue for a wedding ceremony, citing the vineyard owner’s religious beliefs.
After an online backlash, the Lodi-area winery has reversed its decision and its wedding policy.
The engaged couple, Alexandria Biddle and Dezanea Reyes, has now seen their search for a venue go viral.
Reyes first emailed Viaggio Estate and Winery about the venue.
“She got an email back saying that the way that their religious beliefs are, they cannot hold the ceremony,” Biddle said. “It’s just crazy.”
Viaggio Estate and Winery’s emailed reply read that the owner has a strong personal religious belief regarding marriage, “which is for marriage to be between heterosexual couples only.”
The email explained the vineyard would permit the gay couple to hire the venue for their reception. But not the ceremony.
“We straight up said, ‘We’re not asking you to marry us, we have our own people to marry us,'” Biddle said. “Like my sister is going to marry us, and they were like ‘no, we still can’t have it.'”
Reyes posted Viaggio’s email to her Facebook page and Yelp – and the posts exploded with shares and comments.
“I didn’t expect for it to blow up as much as it did,” Reyes said.
In California, the state constitution specifically outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation in all businesses.
Following the online scrutiny of the emails, the winery owner released a prepared statement reading in part:
“Our staff, our customers and our community have helped me see that I was wrong. Our policy has been changed, effective immediately. All couples are welcome to hire our facilities for weddings and the celebrations that go with them.”
“I don’t want a forced apology,” Biddle said. “I accept your apology but no one is going to want a forced apology.”
The young couple vows this won’t stop their celebration.
“We are just now starting our lives and this comes up out of nowhere,” Biddle said.
Biddle and her fiancé were never planning to file a lawsuit against the business. They just wanted to expose its policy.