Couple at centre of Living Springs same-sex marriage complaint speak

Elizabeth Wiltshire and Rebecca Northcutt met while Wiltshire was studying in California.
ELIZABETH WILTSHIRE/SUPPLIED

Elizabeth Wiltshire and Rebecca Northcutt met while Wiltshire was studying in California.

When Elizabeth Wiltshire was looking for a wedding venue, her thoughts turned to a property she remembered well from her childhood. 

Growing up in Christchurch, she'd spent a lot of time at Lyttleton's Living Springs, a function centre that hosts weddings as well as school camps and corporate events. 

When she and fiancee Rebecca Northcutt inquired, though, they were turned away because the venue had a policy against hosting same-sex marriages. 

Following their inquiry, and subsequent complaint to the Human Rights Commission, Living Springs will now welcome gay couples. 

READ MORE: Venue will allow same sex marriages after complaint 

 

The initial refusal "felt like a bit of a punch to the gut", but having the policy changed was the best possible outcome, Wiltshire said. 

She remembered the spot warmly and thought it would be the perfect place for such a special celebration. 

"I'd been there for orchestra camps, and school camps. It was a big part of my childhood so I thought, 'Oh my goodness, that would be the perfect wedding venue.'"

When Wiltshire called Living Springs to check things out, she was aware of the centre's religious ties.

"So I thought, first things first, I'd ask: 'Do you allow same sex weddings?'"

Wiltshire said the woman she spoke to was very apologetic, but told her they wouldn't be able to get married there. 

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"I was quite upset by that... somewhere I had all these fond memories of was suddenly not welcoming," Wiltshire said. 

When friends of the couple who had legal backgrounds said they thought the policy didn't sound lawful, they made the decision to make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. 

Under the Human Rights Act, service providers can't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. 

While Wiltshire and Northcutt were in the process of requesting mediation with Living Springs through the HRC, they read on Stuff that the venue's policy had changed. 

Wiltshire then got in contact with Denis Aldridge, the director at Living Springs. 

"It was good, actually. I felt it was genuine. It wasn't 'Oh, we've had this unlawful policy and now you're making us change it,' [he was] very thankful," she said. 

"It gave them a mandate to push for change."

Wiltshire and Northcutt haven't finalised their wedding plans yet, but whether or not they end up going with Living Springs, they've been invited to visit next time they're in Christchurch. They're satisfied with the venue's response. 

"All I ever wanted from the complaint was to get them to change their policy [and be] more accepting," Wiltshire said. 

With that achieved, she and Northcutt are back to planning their December 2017 wedding. 

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