Lodi Winery Apologizes for, Changes Policy on Denying Gay Weddings

by Sam Cronin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday September 13, 2019

The Viaggio Estate and Winery, a popular Lodi, Calif. destination for wedding ceremonies and receptions, is facing controversy over a policy that it has recently changed about not allowing gay weddings in its facilities.

The move happened after Nikki Levy, an openly gay married person, reached out to the winery's owners to confirm the details of their policy, according to ABC 10. In response to her inquiry, a representative who spoke for the owners said:

"(The owners) understand that California statutory law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and they don't like to think they would ever discriminate on that basis even if a law allowed them to do so. However, the owner also has a very strong personal religious belief regarding marriage, which is for marriage to be between heterosexual couples only. They believe that the United States Constitution and the California Constitution protect these religious beliefs and their right to express them."

The email continued:
"You may come in your wedding attire and take photos and receive the same services as other guests of ours who have been married off-site and have the celebration here. It is the actual ceremony that would be violating their personal religious beliefs."

Levy posted screenshots of the email along with the caption:
"Hey social media mavens, what say we blow Viaggio Estate Winery up for their overt homophobia? See screenshots of their email to me re: hosting a gay wedding. They graciously provided the owner's email: [redacted]."

This discussion echoes the Supreme Court decision from 2018 which ruled 7-2 in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. The majority opinion stated: "...the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression," according to CNN.

In response, winery owner Teri Lawrence has reversed the policy and issued a statement outlining her thought process.

"Viaggio Winery welcomes all couples, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, to our winery and wedding venue, including all wedding ceremonies," the statement read. "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."