Many Ontarians would assume it’s illegal for anyone to be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. But that’s not true for many religious organizations.
In a recent ruling, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal said that a Christian preschool was allowed to discriminate against the child of gay parents.
The parents, a married lesbian couple who live in rural Ontario, wanted to enrol their child in a local evangelical Christian preschool. But when they approached the principal, they claim she was adamant that they would never enrol the child of a same-sex couple.
The couple filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. But the tribunal ruled against them, because the Ontario Human Rights Code includes an exemption that allows religious organizations to legally discriminate.
“The Legislature decided to provide an exemption for religious organisations [sic] if they are primarily engaged in serving the interests of their religious community,” wrote Jennifer Khurana, vice-chair of the tribunal.
She was referring to Section 18 of the code, which allows religious, philanthropic, educational, fraternal or social institutions that serve people who are part of a protected class, like a racial or religious group, to discriminate against people not part of that group.
In this case, the tribunal ruled that since the preschool, which is not named, primarily served evangelical Christians, it could discriminate against a same-sex couple.
The couple, whose identities were kept secret in the ruling, are themselves Christians, but that didn’t overcome the fact that they were in a same-sex marriage.
“These provisions are meant to protect the right to associate and to promote certain types of association, including religion,” Khurana wrote.
According to the tribunal, forcing an evangelical preschool to admit the child of a gay couple would breach the rights of the other parents.
“To obligate the school to admit a child whose parents do not share those beliefs is to encroach on the rights of the parents served by the school to practice [sic] the creed and religion they sincerely believe in,” Khurana wrote.