Toronto
2 min

Just go elsewhere

Lawyer says homos shouldn't push themselves onto rightwing Christians

IN PINK INK, PLEASE. The 1996 gay archives president, Ray Brillinger, started the ball rolling when he asked for letterhead. Credit: Mark Bogdanovic

For now, gay rights trump religious rights.



That’s according to the lawyer for a Christian printer who refused to do some work for the Canadian Lesbian And Gay Archives.



The homo group just won its 1996 discrimination complaint.



“It’s an unfortunate situation when you get into a battle of this nature,” says attorney Philip McMullen. “Someone does lose, and that’s wrong.”



McMullen’s client, Imaging Excellence Inc printing company owner and president Scott Brockie, is that loser. But McMullen says the homos should have respected his client’s religious beliefs in the first place – and just gone elsewhere to get stationary and business cards done.



“Let’s all live with each other, side by side,” he says. “My client said that, ‘Because of my religion, I cannot help you spread your lifestyle.’ And within a 10-minute walk, there must be 30 top quality printers [who could have done the job].



“We all have to bend a little in this world. I wish we could all live together in peace and equanimity.”



But archives lawyer Christopher Bondy is horrified that the case would be presented in this way.



“I don’t think it’s so starkly a religious issue versus a gay issue,” he says. “I think the defendants are raising their own freedom of religion argument as a response to a finding of discrimination.”



A one-person Ontario Human Rights Board Of Inquiry ruled Sep 29 that the printer went against the provincial human rights code. It’s an interesting decision because the archives itself is not a person; the adjudicator ruled the organization is so intimately linked with the sexual orientation of its members that it can, as an entity, be discriminated against.



Says lawyer Bondy: “This isn’t a question that gay rights are inherently an anti-religious rights agenda.



“We’re not challenging the sincerity of the beliefs held… we’re saying that the ability of Mr Brockie to act pursuant to his beliefs are limited by the positive harm that such actions would cause others in society.”



Anyone is free to be a bigot in their own home. “Beliefs shouldn’t lead to a result that prevents persons protected from the code from a denial of service.”



And he adds that many religious communities are not anti-gay.



The adjudicator made an interim decision only. The printer goes back into hearings Oct 25 to 27 to present his case. His lawyer refuses to say what they’ll argue. “That would help the other side,” McMullen says.



But he says freedom of religion and conscience are irretrievably bound, and promises a related argument on which rights should win out.



In turn, the human rights commission will ask for a $5,000 fine and a letter of apology. Bondy says it’s important to “make these rights mean something.”