An event venue in Booneville, Mississippi, has apologized after a video went viral that showed its owner refusing to host same-sex and interracial weddings.
The video was recorded by LaKambria Welch, as first reported by Deep South Voice. Her brother’s wedding has been canceled by the venue, Boone’s Camp Event Hall, and she confronted the owner to find out why.
“First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race — I mean, our Christian belief,” said a woman in the video identified as one of the owners.
According to Deep South Voice, Welch’s brother, who is black, had planned to wed his white fiancé at the venue, but the rental was abruptly canceled.
Welch told the woman she was also a Christian, but the owner replied that she didn’t want to “argue my faith.”
“We just don’t participate,” the woman tells Welch.
“Okay. So that’s your Christian belief, right?” Welch asks the woman.
“Yes ma’am,” she replies.
Welch initially posted the video publicly on Facebook, where it amassed more than 2 million views. She has since removed it from public view.
“When she explained that she doesn’t do the two specific type of weddings, I felt myself starting to shake,” Welch told the Washington Post, adding, “just hearing it gave me chills.” (Welch did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.)
The viral video prompted the city of Booneville to respond in a statement on Facebook, saying the mayor and other officials were aware of the comments.
“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 said.
“Furthermore, the City of Booneville, Mayor, and Board of Aldermen do not condone or approve of these types of discriminatory policies.”
Boone’s Camp Event Hall posted an apology on Facebook before scrubbing the site of their presence. In it, they said that growing up in Mississippi, “our racial boundaries that were unstated were that of staying within your own race.”
The poster said that, after the backlash, they studied the Bible and consulted their pastor but found no evidence that their faith forbade interracial marriage.
“To all of those offended, hurt or felt condemn by my statement I truly apologize to you for my ignorance in not knowing the truth about this,” the post said, according to the Washington Post. “My intent was never of racism, but to stand firm on what I ‘assumed’ was right concerning marriage.” (BuzzFeed News has reached out to the owners for comment.)
Although the venue’s Facebook page is gone, its Yelp page is now being inundated with one-star reviews.
In 2018, Mississippi’s governor signed a “religious freedom” law that protects businesses that refuse services based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” That means a business can deny hosting a same-sex wedding, but the law made no mention of race.