ACAMPO -- A same-sex Sacramento couple claims a San Joaquin County winery refused to do business with them, citing religious beliefs.
Dezanea Reyes and her now fiancée, Alex Biddle, promised to dedicate their lives to one another. They have the ring, their love and they thought they had the venue.
Reyes told FOX40 she reached out to Acampo’s Viaggio Estate and Winery last week. In a response email, they were told the owners would not allow their ceremony to be held on the property.
“If they don’t want same-sex marriages on their property, I mean, because of their religion, they are entitled to that. But at least make it known,” Reyes said. “Making people of the same-sex relationships feel like they can’t go out and ask for just inquiries, ‘cause that’s all it was, it was just, ‘Hey, can I have a copy of your brochure?’”
In the email shared by Reyes, the employee wrote, “ ... the owner also has a very strong personal religious belief regarding marriage, which is for marriage to be between heterosexual couples only.”
“It’s crazy, like, I couldn’t believe how they even said it,” Biddle said.
FOX40 visited the winery and spoke to the co-owner Larry Lawrence off camera. He declined to comment.
The owners initially suggested the couple hold the ceremony elsewhere but added they were invited to spend their money at the winery and host their reception there.
“'You’re allowed to come in your wedding attire,’ because I feel like now you’re treating me like I’m a 5-year-old, telling me what I can and cannot do,” Reyes said.
The couple posted their frustration on social media, which caught the attention of TV personality Nikki Levy, who wed her partner two weeks ago. She wanted to see how Viaggio would respond. Word-for-word, she said she got the same email.
FOX40 spoke to her over the phone.
“To me, it felt like if this was 50 years ago and I’m part of an interracial couple, I could have gotten the same thing,” Levy said. “It’s just gay marriage. It’s only been legal for three years.”
Reyes told FOX40 the owners changed their minds Wednesday morning, claiming they’ll put aside their religious beliefs.
By Wednesday afternoon, Teri Lawrence, who co-owns Viaggio, sent FOX40 the following statement:
Viaggio Winery welcomes all couples, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, to our winery and wedding venue, including all wedding ceremonies. It is our hope that all will feel welcomed and respected at our winery, which has been our home since 2012.
In recent communications with potential visitors, I tried to explore options for celebrations that would accommodate both my religious beliefs and the expectations of our community. I realize now that contrary to my intent, this was hurtful to the people involved.
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 am sincerely sorry to have caused anyone pain at a time that should be joyous. Since 2012, we have been trusted to host the happiest days in the lives of our guests. We are proud of that legacy, and proud to be inclusive of all in the diverse community we call home.
But Reyes said Viaggio is no longer an option for her dream wedding.
“I want my dad to give me away, all that stuff. Like, I want that,” she said.
There has been a lot of backlash against Viaggio online. Levy said she is calling for a boycott and is also inviting the owners to go to a gay wedding.
While Reyes said she understands that they’re running a business, she is just asking for more transparency on their end.