Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Couple Wins Damages in Wedding Reception Case

(Link) Knights of Columbus calendar: Monday's Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser, Wednesday Night's Annual Spaghetti Supper followed by Thursday's Lawsuit Brunch. If you think discrimination -- and a reluctance to return a deposit on a same-sex wedding reception is involved -- say "Bingo!"

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:

VANCOUVER (CP) - Two lesbians have been awarded damages after a Knights of Columbus hall cancelled their wedding reception because it was a gay event.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal said the men's Roman Catholic facility could have refused to host the party based on religious beliefs. But the tribunal also ruled Tuesday that the Knights of Columbus did so in a way that caused the complainants undue hardship.

"The Knights could have taken steps such as meeting with the complainants to explain the situation, formally apologizing, immediately offering to reimburse the complainants for any expenses they had incurred and, perhaps, offering assistance in finding another solution," the tribunal said in a written decision.

"There may have been other options they could have considered without infringing their core religious beliefs."

Representatives of the hall initially accepted a deposit from Tracey Smith and Deborah Chymyshyn for the rental of the facility.

Weeks after the couple signed an agreement with the Knights of Columbus and sent out their wedding invitations, they got a phone call saying that the contract had been cancelled.

George Macintosh, the lawyer for the Knights of Columbus, said the organization takes issue with the finding that it didn't accommodate the complainants in a reasonable way.

"The complainants located another hall the next morning, so that was taken care of," Macintosh said.

"The Knights, when they found out about the misunderstanding, apologized to the complainants for the misunderstanding and offered to refund the hall rental.

"The communication just broke down when the Knights asked for a release to be signed before refunding the hall rental and the cost of printing the invitations, and that led to the hearing."

He said the key part of the ruling was the fact that the tribunal found that the Knights were entitled to refuse access to the hall to the complainants for the celebration of the same-sex wedding.

"That was certainly the basic issue, the main issue that was being contested in the tribunal hearing," he said.

Smith and Chymyshyn made no secret of the fact that the hall was being rented for their wedding reception. It didn't occur to the person showing the hall that could mean they were marrying each other.

barbara findlay, the lawyer representing Smith and Chymyshyn, argued before the tribunal that the hall was a "service or facility customarily available to the public," since the Knights rented it to anyone in the community.

Therefore cancelling their contract was discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, findlay argued in a news release after the tribunal's ruling.

The Knights of Columbus disagreed, pointing to their charter as an international and fraternal Roman Catholic service organization.

They argued that since the Roman Catholic Church opposes homosexuality and gay marriage, they had a good reason based on their freedom of religion for refusing the hall to Smith and Chymyshyn.

The couple said they didn't realize the hall was run by a religious group. They said they found it by driving around and following a sign for a bingo hall.

"We certainly didn't go looking for this problem," Chymyshyn said in a statement.

"We would never have booked the hall if we had known who the Knights of Columbus are, because we wouldn't want any hassle on our special day."