Examples of detrimental action against persons and organisations on the basis of their religious or conscientious conviction that marriage is between a man and a woman.
In 2015, Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous circulated a booklet to Catholic schools entitled Don’t Mess with Marriage which sought to explain the Catholic Church’s position on marriage. The booklet aimed to ‘engage with [the same-sex marriage] debate, present the Church’s teaching to the faithful, and explain the position of the Catholic faithful to the wider community.’ Despite being sent exclusively to parents at Catholic schools—voluntary members of an association— Rodney Croome urged people to complain and a Greens candidate who was not a parent who received the booklet complained to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner that the statements about sex and marriage were offensive and demeaning. The Commissioner found that Porteous and all Catholic Bishops had a case to answer for a prima facie breach of s.17 of Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act which prohibits ‘conduct that is offensive, intimidating, insulting or ridiculing’ on the basis of sexual orientation. Porteous’ breach was articulating moderately expressed orthodox Catholic doctrine on sex and marriage—in short, expressing his and his church’s religious views. After 7 months the complainant withdrew the complaint.
Trinity Western University19
Trinity Western University in British Columbia is a Canadian, Christian university. Students and staff at TWU must sign a community covenant as a condition of being at the school. That covenant includes a promise to abstain from sexual activity unless it is between a husband and wife.
Accreditation of Teaching Graduates refused based solely on the community covenant
Based on this position on marriage, the British Columbia Teachers Board voted to refuse accreditation to graduates of Trinity’s teacher college because they might discriminate against LGBTI students. After years of litigation the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Trinity graduates right to be accredited in 2001.
Accreditation of law graduates to practise law refused by Law Societies in 4 provinces based solely on the community covenant
In 2012 TWU applied to open a law school. In response to TWU’s community covenant, several deans of Canadian laws school, as well as the Canadian Bar Association, the Law Society of Upper Canada, and Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society called for the proposed law school not to receive accreditation. Four Provincial (State) Law societies voted not to accredit graduates from Trinity’s law school to practise in those Provinces. Cases are being litigated in 3 provinces’ appellate courts and are on the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Ashers Bakery—Northern Ireland20
In Norther Ireland, 2014, gay-rights activist Gareth Lee asked Ashers Bakery to produce a cake for him bearing the words: ‘Support gay marriage.’ The bakery refused, because they were unwilling to be seen to promote gay marriage that ran counter to their religious beliefs. They were taken to court. Ashers were found to have discriminated against Lee, based on his sexual orientation. Ashers’ general manager Daniel McArthur stated after the ruling:
We’ve said from the start that our issue was with the message on the cake, not the customer and we didn’t know what the sexual orientation of Mr Lee was, and it wasn’t relevant either. We’ve always been happy to serve any customers that come into our shops. The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign no matter how much they disagree with it.
When the decision was appealed in 2016 by Ashers, the Court of Appeal also held in favour of Lee, stating that he had suffered discrimination based on his sexual orientation.
Hands on Originals—USA21
A similar case to Asher’s Bakery case, but not specifically regarding same-sex marriage, arose in 2012 when a Kentucky t-shirt company, Hands On Originals (HHO) refused to print garments for a local gay-pride festival, based on the message of support for homosexuality that the t-shirt would bear. The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, which found in their favour. However, the Fayette Circuit Court reversed the decision based on the fact that:
There is no evidence in this record that HOO or its owners refused to print the t-shirts in question based upon the sexual orientation of GLSO or its members or representatives that contacted HOO. Rather, it is clear beyond dispute that HOO and its owners declined to print the t-shirts in question because of the message advocating sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman.
Chick-fil-A (a national sandwich franchise) made corporate donations supporting groups opposed to same sex marriage. Its chief operating officer made a number of statements supporting traditional marriage. It was subjected to consumer boycotts and some universities refused to let it open franchises on their campuses. Three cities moved to block planning permission for new franchise stores. The Jim Henson Company, which had entered its Pajanimals in a kids’ meal toy licensing arrangement in 2011, said that it would cease its business relationship with Chick-fil-A, and donate payment for the brand to Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Citing safety concerns, Chick-fil-A stopped distributing the toys.
Other suppliers backed Chick-fil-A and Chick-fil-A stopped the donations to groups opposed to same sex marriage.
Family First—New Zealand23
In 2013, New Zealand lobby group, Family First was notified by the Charities Registration Board that their charitable status was to be rescinded, which, according to Director Bob McCoskrie, was in part due to the group’s advocacy against same sex marriage. Family First appealed the decision, and in a 2015 High Court decision, regained its charitable status.
Pemberton v Inwood—UK24
In 2014, Church of England priest, Canon Jeremy Pemberton married his partner Laurence Cunnington. As a result, Bishop Richard Inwood revoked Pemberton’s license, which resulted in Pemberton being ineligible for a chaplaincy position in a NHS Trust. As a result, Pemberton brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal, arguing that Inwood had caused:
Unlawful direct discrimination because of sexual orientation and/or marital status and of unlawful harassment related to sexual orientation.
The tribunal did not agree, and found that Inwood had not unlawfully discriminated against Pemberton, who has since appealed the decision.
Sweet Cakes by Melissa—USA25
In Oregon in 2013, lesbian couple Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer aske Sweet Cakes by Mellissa bakery to make them a wedding cake to celebrate their wedding. According to Rachel Bowman-Cryer, co-owner Aaron Klein, after being informed that the cake order was for a same sex marriage, stated:
Well, I’m sorry, but we don’t do same-sex weddings here.
The Oregon Bureau of Labour and Industries, once the case had been referred to then found that the bakery had unlawfully discriminated against the Bowman-Cryers and ruled that the Kleins owed the couple up to $150,000 in damages.
Gifford v McCarthy, Erwin—USA26
In 2012, couple Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin contacted Cynthia and Robert Gifford to arrange their wedding ceremony at their Liberty Ridge Farm estate, New York. After learning that it would be a same-sex marriage ceremony, the Giffords declined to host the event. After complaining of unlawful practice, the McCarthy and Erwin were awarded $13,000 in damages by the New York State Division of Human Rights, based on its findings that the Giffords had committed ‘sexual orientation discrimination.’ For their part, the Giffords insisted that their decision to refuse to host the ceremony was based on the event, not the sexual orientation of the individuals in question. The court brief stated that:
The Giffords serve everyone, including individuals who identify as gay and lesbian … In fact, the Giffords will gladly host myriad events, including wedding receptions, for same-sex couples. It is only same-sex wedding ceremonies that the Giffords cannot host or participate in.
Despite this, the ‘expressive endorsement’ argument forwarded by the Giffords was discounted, based on a perceived inextricability between sexual orientation and practice, in this case marriage.
Co-founder of the Mozilla Corporation—best known for its browser, Firefox—Brendan Eich was appointed chief executive of the company in 2014. It quickly emerged, however, that he had made a $1,000 donation in support of Californian anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8, in 2008. A social media outcry quickly ensued. Furthermore, online dating website OkCupid posted a message to its users, asking them to boycott Mozilla by using an alternative browser when accessing their website:
“Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience. Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.”
Eich quickly stepped down from his new position. The executive chairwoman of Mozilla stated afterwards:
Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it … We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.
Rogers Sportsnet TV host Damian Goddard was fired after he tweeted in support of traditional marriage in 2014, as a response to a tweet by sports agent Todd Reynolds. Reynold’s tweet, which in turn was answer a statement by NHL player Sean Avery’s support for same sex marriage was:
Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage’. Legal or not, it will always be wrong.
Goddard posted on his private Twitter account:
I completely and whole-heartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and true meaning of marriage.
Goddard’s employment with Rogers Sportsnet was terminated within 24 hours of his tweet. Sportsnet director Dave Rashford stated that ‘it had become clear that [Goddard] is not the right fit for our organization.’
A related incident in Sydney in 2016, saw a planned gathering at the Mercure Sydney Airport Hotel targeted for their beliefs. The function, consisting of various Australian Christian groups and organizations, was aiming to form a strategy in the event of a same-sex marriage plebiscite being held. An online campaign to have the function banned threatened violent protests such that the safety of staff could not be guaranteed. The hotel cancelled the event. According to a hotel spokeswoman, the decision to cancel was based on fears for the ‘safety and security of our hotel guests and staff.’
Corporates boycotts: Georgia—USA30
In 2016 numerous companies threatened to boycott the US state of Georgia, after legislation was tabled seeking to expand religious freedom exceptions regarding same sex marriage, including allowing clergy to refuse to officiate in same-sex weddings. The companies involved included Disney, Intel, Coca Cola, Unilever, and others; as well as threats from the NFL and NBA that there would be negative consequences, in terms of match scheduling, if the laws were passed. Disney released a statement saying:
We will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.
18 Dennis Shanahan, 12 November, 2015. The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/catholic-bishops-called-to-answer-in-antidiscrimination-test-case/news-story/b98439693f2f4aa17aca9b46c7bda776
19 Gary Johns, 28 July, 2016. The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/gary-johns/leftist-politics-and-damned-outcomes-on-matters-of-principle/news-story/ff73798276afdfdcff69a35e04d0bcb9
20 Henry McDonald, 24 October, 2016. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/oct/24/born-again-christian-ashers-bakery-lose-court-appeal-in-gay-cake-row; 19 May, 2015. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/19/northern-ireland-ashers-baking-company-guilty-discrimination-gay-marriage-cake
21 Justin Wm. Moyer, 28 April, 2015. The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/28/christian-t-shirt-company-doesnt-have-to-print-gay-pride-festival-shirts-court-says/?utm_term=.d678a8a29594 Fayette Circuit Court: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2015/04/HandsOnOriginals.pdf; Eugene Volokh, 27 April, 2015. The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/04/27/printing-business-has-first-amendment-and-rfra-right-to-refuse-to-print-gay-pride-festival-t-shirts/?utm_term=.5a3414d30a73
23 Heather McCracken, 6 May, 2013. New Zealand Herald. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10881782; http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11473926; High Court of New Zealand judgment: https://www.familyfirst.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/aaaa-Decision-of-the-High-Court.pdf
24 Ben Quinn, 16 June, 2015. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/16/canon-jeremy-pemberton-first-priest-marry-same-sex-partner-sues-church-of-England; Employment Appeal Tribunal: http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2016/0072_16_0712.html
25 Curtis M. Wong, 4 February, 2015. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/sweet-cakes-by-melissa-violation-_n_6604526; http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/lesbian-couple-sweet-cakes_us_55b7adf5e4b0074ba5a64be7
26 Valerie Richardson, 28 June, 2015. The Washington Times. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/28/christian-farm-family-penalized-in-gay-wedding-ref/
27 Dave Lee, 4 April 2014. BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-26868536; https://www.twu.ca/proposed-school-law/timeline
28 23 June, 2011. The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/06/23/damian-goddard-sportsnet-human-rights-same-sex_n_883589.html; Linda Nguyen, 23 June, 2011. National Post. http://news.nationalpost.com/sports/nhl/broadcaster-fired-controversial-tweet-tweet-files-human-rights-complaint
29 David Crowe, 17 September, 2016. The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/samesex-marriage-event-off-threats-to-hotel-staff/news-story/d45bd0f9e9a774fc3e3d0741f176da13
30 24 March, 2016, CBS News. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/georgia-religious-liberty-bill-proposal-companies-warn-of-boycott-for-lgbt-discrimination/; Anna Fields, 23 March, 2016. Forbes.