B.C. Human Rights Tribunal awards gay couple $1,500 over bed and breakfast dispute
Two gay men have each won a $1,500 award from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal after they were turned away from the Riverbed Bed and Breakfast in Grand Forks, B.C.
In addition, Shaun Eadie and Brian Thomas were granted $1,530 between them for loss of wages and the cost of travel and accommodation to attend a hearing, plus postjudgment interest.
The home-based bed and breakfast is operated by Susan and Les Molnar, a Christian couple who had claimed that they lawfully cancelled the reservation in 2009 because the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees their religious freedom.
Section 8 of the B.C. Human Rights Code states that a person must not “without a bona fide and reasonable justification” deny any accommodation “customarily available to the public” on the basis of sexual orientation.
“There is a clear nexus between the Complainants’ sexual orientation and the denial of accommodation,” tribunal member Enid Marion wrote in her decision. “Their sexual orientation was a factor, if not the sole factor, in the cancellation of their reservation. In this regard, I am not persuaded by the Respondents’ argument that a distinction should be made between sexual orientation and sexual conduct and that, had the Complainants’ provided certain assurances that they would not engage in sexual relations, then they may have been provided with accommodation.”
Eadie initially booked the room over the phone with Susan Molnar. A few minutes later, her husband called to ask if Eadie and Thomas were a couple. When Eadie confirmed that this was the case, Les Molnar told him that the reservation was “not going to work out”.
The gay couple later filed a human-rights complaint. Marion rejected the Molnars’ argument that because they operate their business out of their home, they should be eligible for a “modified standard” under the B.C. Human Rights Code.
“I accept that the Molnars 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,” Marion acknowledged in her ruling. “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.”