A couple in Nashville, Tennessee, say they were rejected by a wedding venue after the owner realized they were gay.
Mike Gill and Coty Heaton had inquired about getting married at Barn in the Bend, an event venue in Madison, Tennessee, and received an email from owner Jackie Daniel, who told the couple “we appreciate your interest in our venue” and that she’d “be glad to set up a tour.”
In that first email, Gill noticed that the email signature read: “We offer same-sex marriage ceremonies only.”
But an hour later, Daniel sent Gill another email to check the gender of his future spouse.
“Did you mention that your partner was a ‘he’?” Daniel wrote. “If I’m wrong I’m sorry, however I don’t want to waste your time since we do not offer same sex marriages here. If I’m wrong I apologize. Just let me know if we need to proceed with the 4:00 [appointment] tomorrow.”
Gill also noticed that the signature on the follow-up email had been changed to read: “We do not offer same-sex marriage ceremonies,” reports TMZ.
The couple took to social media to explain how they were turned away from the venue, with Heaton describing the venues owners as “bigots” in a Facebook post. In response, many LGBTQ people and allies began posting negative one-star reviews on Barn in the Bend’s Yelp page, its TripAdvisor page, and other review sites, writing to express their displeasure with the venue’s policy.
“In 2021, we still have absolutely HATEFUL, unaccepting people who, unfortunately, own businesses… I will make sure to reach out to all musicians, photographers, event planners that I know to make sure they cross this bigoted business off their list,” one reviewer wrote on TripAdvisor.
In a follow-up email, Daniel wrote: “I’m sorry but due to my religious beliefs I have chosen this policy and for that reason alone. I wish you the best in life and the best future in all that you do.”
She noted that the negative reviews had already begun to flow in, telling Gill and Heaton: “I see you wasted no time with the reviews and that too is your right just as my choice of ceremony types at my venue is my choice. That is why people have lots of choices out there and I know you will find a perfect fit for you and your partner.”
Gill told TMZ that he and Heaton don’t want anything special from Daniel, but simply want to warn other same-sex couples about the venue’s refusal to host same-sex weddings.
Following the deluge of negative reviews, the Barn in the Bend set its website to “private” and shut down its social media presence. According to Scoop Nashville, Barn in the Bend was also dropped from several wedding referral websites who restricted access to their platforms due to the venue’s refusal to treat same-sex couples equally.
“Well, first off — they are a business that discriminates based upon who their customers choose to love,” wrote a Yelp reviewer. “They said it is due to their religious beliefs — but I wonder if they also don’t allow for others to rent the space based upon religious rules of the Bible… like if either of the people were married before (Mark 10:11-12). Or wore clothing made of two or more types of fabric (Leviticus 19:19). Or wears gold or pearls or braid their hair (1 Timothy 2:9). Do any of them eat pork? (Leviticus 11:4) Do those that she has allowed to be married have tattoos? (Leviticus 19:28). What about eating seafood? That’s forbidden too (Leviticus 10-11).
“I mean, a LOT of these rules I just mentioned come from Leviticus — especially the ONE she wants to follow about gay people (Leviticus 18;22)… So, I assume she’s following all these rules,” the reviewer continued. “If she isn’t – we can assume she is just using the Bible to discriminate against others to justify her bigotry.”
“They hatefully refused to support legal marriages between ALL Married couples who are AMERICAN CITIZENS,” wrote another reviewer. “They replied to a friend with a MEGA BIGOTTED and hateful message saying they will not support all Legal marriages.
“News Channel 4 has been notified, and they may be riddled in lawsuits, so I would certainly not book there pending their hatred for LGBTQ+…they are CERTAINLY NOT Christian, because God loves and supports ALL LOVE,” the reviewer added. “This is so disgusting. Two, beautiful people who were planing a lovely ceremony just found out they had to change plans due to this venue’s hatred. WE WILL NOT Be recommending to ANYONE.”
The story of the venue’s rejection of Gill and Heaton attracted the attention of musical artist, performer, and dancer Todrick Hall, who suggested a boycott, advising LGBTQ people and allies not to give Barn in the Bend any business. Hall also said Daniel’s refusal to offer her venue to same-sex couples is an example of “heterosexual privilege,” and encouraged others who support LGBTQ rights not to spend their money at the venue.
“I hope that people reach out to this company and hold them accountable, and let them know that even people in their community don’t f*** with this,” Hall told TMZ in a brief video interview. “This is not okay. This is not acceptable. It’s 2021. If someone’s getting married, it’s not your job to dictate whether or not their marriage should be legal.”