3 min

Printer must print tame gay stuff

Religion no excuse to deny basic service

Credit: Xtra files

The Ontario Superior Court Of Justice has ruled against a company that refused to print business cards and letterhead for the Canadian Lesbian And Gay Archives.

But the ruling wouldn’t oblige a printer to print things like brochures or posters advocating gay and lesbian issues.

“Gays and lesbians have been at the mercy of people who knew that they couldn’t get away with discriminating against other groups in a similar fashion. This decision says this has to stop,” says Ray Brillinger, who was president of the archives at the time the case started.

The ruling against Scott Brockie And Imaging Excellence Inc came down on Jun 17, when the court stood mostly behind a 1999 Human Rights Commission Board Of Inquiry decision which ordered Brockie to provide services to the archives, as well as pay damages of $5,000 to the archives and Brillinger. The decision also confirms that a company that wants to conduct business in Ontario cannot be selective of which laws they choose to obey. This case was the result of an appeal filed by Brockie.

“I have the right, whether gay or straight, to have services provided when I approach a business and offer to purchase something,” says Brillinger.

“It’s an overwhelming win for the archives,” says lawyer David Corbett. But he points out that there is a difference between having to print cards and blank letterhead and having to print other things.

“What the court has done is to say, ‘You are not ordered by the court to print materials other than the non-controversial materials, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be in compliance with the human rights code.'”

The ruling doesn’t cover a situation when a company is asked to print something more explicit. Corbett says in that case, a complaint could be made to the Human Rights Commission.

But archives staff are overjoyed.

Archives vice president Mary MacDonald says this decision sends a clear message to all members of groups who are protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

“The message is that religious beliefs are not defensible as a reason to discriminate against customers in the marketplace,” she says.

While the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Freedom Alliance intervened on behalf of Brockie, other “equality seeking” groups supported the archives.

“The court recognized the effects of discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people,” says John Fisher of the queer lobby group Egale Canada. “This case is an important affirmation of the right of all individuals to participate equally in Canadian society.”

Voice strangled

Another case of a printer refusing to print homo materials is unfolding this week in Brantford, where the owner of Ricter Web Publishing has snubbed a gay magazine.

After publishing one issue of The Voice Magazine, a monthly for the queer community in southwestern Ontario, the printer is refusing to publish any further issues.

“It seemed like the day the cheque cleared, the phone call came,” says editor AJ Mahari.

The Voice had recently changed printers because they were expanding, and Mahari said she hadn’t heard any complaints from the printer about the content until after the issue was done.

“You’d think that if they had some problem, they’d say something during proofing,” she says. Instead, Mahari says she was told by a sales agent that the owner was refusing to publish any more issues, and cited specific pages as offensive. Mahari says the most explicit thing in the issue was a photo of an erect penis, which illustrated an article on the controversy surrounding gay art.

“The article demanded the picture,” says Mahari. “It wasn’t gratuitous.” Other pages in question contained an ad from Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, which contains a photo of a topless woman and a buttocks in fishnets, and an ad for a bar in Brantford, which contains a highly distorted image of two naked bodies.

Mahari says that The Voice isn’t about sex, it’s about commentary.

“We want to be different, and we have a niche,” she says. “We’re much cleaner than most gay publications.”

Lawyer David Corbett has been advising Mahari, and isn’t sure if there’s a case yet. He says it’s not clear yet whether the publisher is discriminating or simply being prudish. A lawyer for the publisher claims that he’s published other gay and lesbian materials, but Corbett and Mahari want them to prove it. Ricter Web Publishing did not return Xtra’s phone calls by press time.

“I think it goes to the heart of the expression of gay lifestyle,” says Mahari. “If I have my way, we’ll definitely be laying a human rights complaint.” The magazine is using another printer for its next edition.

Corbett says they’re waiting to hear from the publisher’s lawyers about their position.

“You’re not going to let your publisher become your editor,” Corbett says.