Thursday, July 19, 2012

Canadian Tribunal Finds Christian B&B Owners Violated Human Rights Code By Cancelling Reservation For Gay Couple

In Eadie and Thomas v. Riverbend Bed and Breakfast, (BCHRT, July 17, 2012), the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal held that a bed and breakfast in a small Canadian town, and its owners who are members of the Mennonite Brethren Church, violated the sexual orientation discrimination provisions of the  B.C. Human Rights Code when they cancelled a room reservation after learning that it had been made by a same-sex couple.  The Tribunal held that it lacks jurisdiction to determine whether the Human Rights Code conflicts with the freedom of religion provisions of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That issue must be presented to a court.  Instead, the Tribunal is limited to determining whether respondents had a "bona fide and reasonable justification" to discriminate.  The Tribunal Member hearing the case wrote:
I accept that the Molnars [the B&B owners] hold a sincere, personal and core religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and that sex outside of such a marriage,including same-sex sexual relations, is a sin. I also accept that the Molnars sincerely believe that to allow a same-sex couple to stay in a single bed in their home would harm their relationship to their Lord, and that they would not rent a room in their home for a purpose that conflicted with, or was contrary to, their personal religious beliefs....
She concluded, however, that to be acceptable, a justification had to be rationally related to the function or purpose of the bed and breakfast.  Here the policy of restricting rooms with one bed to heterosexual couples was rationally related to the owners' religious beliefs, but not to the B&B's purpose of offering temporary accommodations to the general public. The Tribunal issued a cease and desist order and awarded damages, including $1500 to each of the complainants for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.

The Province, reporting on the decision, says that the Molnars stopped operating their bed and breakfast when the complaint was filed against them, and they do not intend to reopen. [Thanks to Alliance Alert for the lead.]