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Grand Forks B & B faces human rights challenge

In a sensitive case that has discrimination based on sexual orientation up against the right to religious freedom; the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal rejected Grand Forks respondents Les and Susan Molnar’s request for dismissal last week. According to the complainants, Shaun Eadie and Brian Thomas, the Molnars refused them a room at their bed and breakfast home in June, 2009. On Mar. 3, the Tribunal heard Molnars’ application for dismissal of the complaint.

According to the tribunal’s reasons for decision document, provided by Tribunal Member Murray Geiger-Adams, Eadie contacted the Riverbend Bed and Breakfast operated by the Molnars to book a room. A few minutes after the booking, Les Molnar called Eadie back and asked whether Eadie and Thomas were a gay couple. Eadie advised that they were, and Molnar replied, “Then this is not going to work out,” according to Eadie. After the second phone call there was no further discussion between the parties before Eadie and Thomas filed their complaint.

The report said that Molnar acknowledges they denied the complainants accommodation because “to allow a gay couple to share a bed in my Christian home would violate my Christian beliefs and cause me and my wife great distress.” Molnar further described that by allowing a gay couple to stay at his home he would be “encouraging something which I believe to be wrong according to my religious beliefs and understanding of scripture.”

Geiger-Adams stated that his duty was only to address the request for dismissal from the respondents and not make any decision on the issue of discrimination. In order to dismiss the complaint, Geiger-Adams had to apply specific tests to the complaint: i) that the allegations in the complaint do not contravene the Code; ii) there is no reasonable prospect that the complaint will succeed; and iii) proceeding with the complaint would not benefit the person alleged to have been discriminated against.

Geiger-Adams reviewed each of the tests in detail, but was unable to dismiss the claim. “The respondents appear to concede that denying accommodation to a gay couple, when that specific accommodation would be available to a heterosexual couple, is discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation. If the complainants can prove the facts they allege, and in the absence of a defence or non-discriminatory explanation from the respondents, they will have established, a nexus between a prohibited ground of discrimination and the negative treatment alleged, and thus a contravention of the Code.”

Geiger-Adams explained that “the respondents argue that the acts alleged against it were protected by their Charter rights to freedom of religion and association….The Tribunal considers only whether the allegations in the complaint could constitute a contravention of the Code, not whether a respondent may have a defence.”

As a result of this decision the complaint will move forward to be heard at the B.C Human Rights Tribunal. Neither party was available for comment.