It’s an interesting news story to pop up right in the middle of this province’s Pride week: on the other side of the country, the owners of a now-closed bed and breakfast have been ordered to pay $4,000 for refusing a room to a gay couple.
The couple, Brian Thomas and Shaun Eadie, had made reservations at the Riverbend Bed and Breakfast in Grand Forks, B.C., a town that’s located about 500 kilometres east of Vancouver.
The B&B owners, Susan and Les Molnar, at first accepted the couple’s reservation, but cancelled it after discovering that the two men were a same-sex couple. One wonders what would happen if the owners had accepted a reservation from a common-law couple or, for that matter, from two people with no official relationship who were looking for a dirty weekend together. The Molnars testified they would have refused any such reservations.
They argue that such lifestyles are contrary to their Christian beliefs, and that their B&B was run as part of their Christian ministry.
After their reservations were cancelled, Thomas and Eadie complained to B.C’s Human Rights Tribunal, and asked for close to $2,500 apiece in damages.
The problem, as spelled out by the tribunal, is that the B&B was being run as a commercial enterprise, and commercial operations are governed by the province’s rules against sexual discrimination.
There are, no doubt, those who would side with the Molnars and say that people with strict religious views shouldn’t be required to set those views aside when customers arrive whose lifestyles are different from those of the owners.
That is a particularly myopic view.
The tribunal described the Molnars’ argument like this: “(They) deny any discriminatory conduct. They say that they have a constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion, and that the cancellation of the reservation was justified on this basis.”
But would it be acceptable, for example, for someone to refuse customers who are Jewish, based on religious grounds?
Of course not.
Could a restaurant choose not to serve certain patrons, based on their particular ethic backgrounds?
Once again, no.
The simplest solution?
If you feel that serving everyone and anyone — regardless of race, colour creed or sexual orientation — is beyond your ability for religious reasons or any other cause, perhaps you should reconsider being in business.
The message is simple: paying customers get to pick where they spend their money.
Businesses — except perhaps in the case of unruly or drunken guests — don’t get to pick and choose who they’ll serve, especially not based on discrimination because of sexual orientation.
That may be difficult to live with if you hold strong beliefs. It is, however, the law, and learning that the hard way can be an expensive proposition indeed.
Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that’s taking far too long to sink in, for some.