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Print company ordered to pay gay man €2.5k over refusal to print civil partnership invites

This follows a landmark ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission.

Image: Shutterstock/Lisa F. Young

A PRINT AND design company has been ordered to pay €2,500 to a gay man over its refusal to print invites for the man’s civil partnership ceremony to his long term partner.

This follows a landmark ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) which has found that Beulah Print and Design discriminated against Jonathon Brennan (33) on the grounds of sexual orientation when refusing to print the invites.

Adjudication Officer Orla Jones has ordered the Drogheda company to pay the €2,500 to Brennan for the discrimination under Section 3 of the Equal Status Act.

In the case, Brennan from Drogheda contacted Beulah Print and Design in March 2015 for the printing of the invites for the civil partnership ceremony to his long term partner, John Kierans (39).

However, Brennan told the WRC hearing that he was “shocked and embarrassed” when Beulah refused to take the business as he had done business with Beulah for four years prior to March 2015 for his hairdressing salon and had never had a problem with them.

Brennan told the hearing that the co-owner of Beulah told him that they could not print the invitations as he and his business partner were Bible-believing Christians and did not believe in homosexuality and did not support gay marriage.

Brennan said that Beulah told him that they would refuse any request to print pictures of a naked woman because of their religious beliefs.

Brennan told Beulah that they had been happy to take his money for other orders but not when it came to invitations for his civil partnership.

Brennan lodged his discrimination claim on 29 April 2015 and at the WRC hearing, the co-owner of Beulah explained that they had refused to do other forms of printing in the past where they had objected to its content due to their religious beliefs. 

The Beulah co-owner stated that on 4 March 2015 he thought Brennan understood and accepted what he had said and that he then went to shake Brennan’s hand but Brennan did not reciprocate.  

Beulah told the WRC that the refusal of this service was not due to Brennan’s sexual orientation as they had previously provided printing services to him for his hairdressing business and did not object to providing a printing service to him but objected to providing a printing service in respect of something which was contrary to their beliefs.

Beulah stated that it was the subject matter of the request which they took issue with and not the person requesting the service.  

Beulah stated that in the past, it has refused to print posters for a male stripper event at a pub and would also refuse to print anything pornographic as those requests were contrary to their religious beliefs.

Beulah stated that they would have refused the same request if the request had been made by someone of a different sexual orientation.  

Beulah stated that it has many gay customers and would never refuse service to someone due to their sexual orientation.  

Findings

In her findings, Jones stated that Beulah confirmed to the hearing that its wedding invitation service is available to heterosexual couples and thus it is clear that Brennan could have availed of that service if he had been a heterosexual male.

Jones found that Beulah refused a service to Brennan that is freely available to heterosexual couples.

She said that it is clear that whatever Beulah’s reasons for refusing to provide Brennan with the wedding invitation service Brennan could have accessed that service but for the fact that he is a gay man.

She concluded:  “I am thus satisfied that in refusing to provide the service to the complainant the respondent did discriminate against the complainant on the ground of his sexual orientation.”

In a statement on the WRC outcome, Beulah state that it rejected the findings of the WRC.

The firm state: “We simply acted in accordance with the light of our own consciences as followers of Christ.”

The company stated that it did not refuse Brennan service “because of who he is or how he chooses to live, indeed we were happy to serve him in the past and would happily continue to serve him in the future”.

They stated: “We are absolutely clear, and have maintained from the outset, that we did not discriminate against our customer in turning down the designing and printing of a same-sex wedding invitation.”

The firm added: “We have turned down many jobs over the years solely because they were in clear opposition to our Christian faith.”

The statement went on: “We are not against people who choose to practice homosexuality, but as Bible-believing Christians, we cannot in good conscience go along with printing invitations for same-sex unions.

“For us, designing and printing invitations to such events would be the lending of our approval and even the promotion of the content and is, therefore, something we could never do.”

The statement went on: “The WRC ruling tends to force conformity with regard to personal moral choices which many people hold in good faith.

“We have only recently passed laws to allow same-sex marriage in this country and a sizeable minority voted against – are we now to require all of those citizens to go against their consciences and bend to the will of the majority?

“If the State dictates what a person may or may not believe and demands conformity in matters of personal moral choices we are travelling the road of intolerance towards totalitarianism.”

Efforts to obtain comment on the WRC outcome from Brennan have been unsuccessful to date.

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About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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