A gay couple from Vancouver was awarded over $4500 for discrimination in a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision yesterday after being refused Grand Forks accommodations in 2009.
The decision, by Tribunal member Enid Marion, found that Les and Susan Molnar, operating the Riverbend Bed and Breakfast business at the time, were not complying with B.C. laws when they advised Shaun Eadie and Brian Thomas that they could not accept their reservation for a room.
“Having entered into the commercial sphere, the Molnars, like other business people, were required to comply with the laws of the Province, including the Code, which is quasi-constitutional legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” stated Marion in the decision.
Eadie’s testimony said he originally contacted the Molnars and made a reservation for one room. Later he received a call from the Molnars asking if they were a gay couple and then saying that the situation was “not going to work out” and cancelling their accommodations.
The Molnars, in response to the human rights claim, did not dispute what had taken place but argued that their religious beliefs would not allow a gay couple to stay at their home and that the case was a matter of competing rights. In testimony at the tribunal, the Molnars clearly identified their Mennonite beliefs and that their strong faith made them uncomfortable with any gay or unmarried couples staying at their B & B.
In testimony both Eadie and Thomas said the discrimination had emotional impacts on them. “He (Eadie) testified that the incident with the Riverbend felt like a “slap in the face”, that it made him feel like a second-class citizen again after he had rebuilt his confidence, and that he felt crushed,” stated the decision.
Marion did not discount the Molnars’ faith, but found that their choice of business and lack of promotion that the business was Christian-based impacted her decision.
“The Riverbend was not operated by a Church or religious organization. While the business was operated by individuals with sincere religious beliefs respecting same-sex couples, and out of a portion of their personal residence, it was still a commercial activity. It was the Molnars’ personal and voluntary choice to start up a business in their personal residence. In this respect, the Molnars were not compelled by the state to act in a manner inconsistent with their personal religious views,” the decision outlined.
Eadie and Thomas were awarded $3000 for damages for injury and $1530 for expenses and lost income.
The Molnars closed the Riverbend in late 2009, not because of the claim but as a result of the public reaction to the situation and the risk of further liability.