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Is not renting to a gay couple a religious Liberty Issue?


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http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/...d-for-being-gay

In a case that pits religious freedoms against gay rights, a rental consultant freely admits she denied a Brampton apartment to a same-sex couple because the landlord is opposed to their sexual orientation.

Juliet Stewart says her clients, a Seventh-day Adventist husband and wife, told her in no uncertain terms during a screening interview that they would never allow a gay couple to rent their basement apartment.

That may violate Ontario’s Human Rights Code, but Stewart is unbowed, and the homeowners, who live in the house with the rental apartment, aren’t backing down either, she says.

“If the Human Rights Commission comes after me, they come after me,’’ Stewart said in an interview this week, adding she has received death threats over the stance she’s taking.

She said clients in her business often voice preferences for renters — no pets, no smoking, no gay people, no social assistance, ethnic groups they like or dislike — and Stewart always obliges.

“That’s just the way things are,’’ she says.

But the rejected renters in this case are furious and say they plan to launch a human rights complaint next week.

“I’m going to take this (complaint) as far as I can to ensure this doesn’t happen to someone else. Nobody should have to go through this,’’ says Thiago Derucio, 26, a local singer who was turned away with his partner, Chris Prentice, 21.

“I was [censored] and hurt and couldn’t believe that (it) happened. We’re in 2012,’’ Derucio said in an interview.

The couple subsequently found another unit to rent in Mississauga.

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The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s chief commissioner, Barbara Hall says that, generally speaking, issues such as the religion of a person offering a service determining who they’ll do business with has been found to “not be a competing right’’ in Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario judgments. In other words, when you go into business and put out services or products, you have to deal with whoever comes forward, regardless of religion, race or sexual orientation.

And it’s not a defence to say you’re discriminating because that’s your clients’ wish, Hall adds.

The code does make exemptions for sharing of facilities, such as a kitchen or a bathroom, but the Brampton case doesn’t appear to meet those criteria, Hall said, noting that if it’s a commercial enterprise, the operators “are governed by the Human Rights Code.”

The Ontario tribunal hears complaints and can order human rights training and/or a monetary penalty for those found to have breached the code.

The apartment conflict began a few weeks ago, after Derucio and Prentice responded by telephone to an online ad for a basement apartment Stewart advertised under her Rental Diva business, which Stewart told the Star isn’t licensed.

Located in a bungalow, the separate rental unit has its own bathroom and bedroom, with an open concept living and dining area.

It rents for $750 a month.

When Prentice used the word “partner’’ during his telephone conversation with Stewart, Derucio says she asked what he meant by the term.

When Prentice said he’s gay, Stewart responded her client doesn’t accept gay people, at which point the conversation ended, says Derucio.

Prentice explained what happened to Derucio. Shocked, Derucio called Stewart back and asked if she really denied him and Prentice the unit because they’re homosexuals.

She told him yes, he says, and she then repeated the comment about her client being opposed to gay renters.

“I said, ‘I don’t mean to cut you off, but you do realize that’s against the law.’ She said, ‘I don’t care, and don’t go all gay rights on me,’” and hung up the phone, he alleges.

“I was stunned, honestly stunned, that anyone would talk to someone like that,’’ Derucio adds.

Stewart generally agrees with that version of events.

She says she’s also a Seventh-day Adventist, and though she wouldn’t discriminate against gay renters herself, she understands why the homeowners in this case are digging in their heels.

“It’s not about my views, it’s the clients’ choice,’’ Stewart said, later adding she won’t apologize for “being honest.’’

She says the homeowners don’t want to be identified publicly at this time.

“The bottom line is, at the end of the day it’s (their home),’’ Stewart says, adding that as a black woman, she is fully conversant with issues of racism and discrimination.

The case is similar to one heard before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal last year involving two gay men who were turned away from a bed and breakfast in 2009 because the owners of the now-defunct business were evangelical Christians.

A few weeks ago the tribunal ordered that the gay couple in that case each receive $1,500 for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect’’ and the operators stop the discriminatory conduct.

The business had closed prior to the judgment.

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Stan, this case illustrates a principle reason we have been counseled to avoid that line of business - innkeepers, etc. - because it would cause a conflict of values, Sabbathkeeping being one.

Nice to see the agent being honest about the reason for refusal.

But the homeowners should know the law (ignorance is no defence for breaking it), and must face the consequences, such as legal action. Would they consider Sunday-keeping tenants, an unmarried couple, or Wicca worshippers? The court may ask.

It may have been more prudent to advertise within the church to find those that are like-minded to share their home.

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Stan, this case illustrates a principle reason we have been counseled to avoid that line of business - innkeepers, etc. - because it would cause a conflict of values, Sabbathkeeping being one.

I'd like to see the quote for that Gordon. Because I know a number of Adventists that own businesses.

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Hmmm... Interesting

Would anyone question the landlord's option to refuse if the applicant had a criminal record or had pets or children or stayed up late at nights listening to loud neighbours?

I have a gay nephew... And I think about him and wonder, too.

Every Christian came from somewhere. What makes the difference as to what draws them to Jesus?

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Hi Peter, what difference would a quotation make?

We've been told to avoid unions, unclean foods, life insurance, speculative investments, drugs, drama, marrying outside the faith, etc.

Like you I know numerous Adventists who do so anyway. Everyone finds an excuse for their actions. Really messes up new converts.

I read the same books available to us all. Some choose not to read.

If you need to know, you will find it - I'm not sure which book, but it's on my shelf. We might think of many enterprises which entail a compromise with God's instructions. For example, those in the 24/7 hospitality sector. Service stations, convenience stores, motels, campgrounds, bars, restaurants. I'm sure you can think of some too. We don't need a SOP list, but to understand principles.

Most Rabbis remember the Ten Commandments, but still employ a Sabbath goy to switch on the synagogue lights.

So what weight would a dead woman's counsel have if the Big Ten are lightly regarded?

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Hmmm... Interesting

Would anyone question the landlord's option to refuse if the applicant had a criminal record or had pets or children or stayed up late at nights listening to loud neighbours?

Hi Gail, it's really about the local law, which of course is subject to the Constitution & the Charter of Rights & Freedoms.

All citizens (incl. business owners) should know which laws govern their conduct.

So if the local rental board allows or prohibits certain practices, landlords and tenants can know these in advance.

(i.e. before entering into a contract)

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  • 2 weeks later...

The case is similar to one heard before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal last year involving two gay men who were turned away from a bed and breakfast in 2009 because the owners of the now-defunct business were evangelical Christians.

A few weeks ago the tribunal ordered that the gay couple in that case each receive $1,500 for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect’’ and the operators stop the discriminatory conduct.

The business had closed prior to the judgment.

Yuppers, that Bed and Breakfast was right here in my little town. I can tell you that a big part of why it is out of business is over the bad publicity they got when the story first went to the media.

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  • 5 weeks later...

I believe the Sabbath Commandment mentions "the strangers within thy gates" or something like that.

So, I don't have a problem with an SDA wanting only certain people to rent to. But, if you are going to follow this in a business, how far are you going to go with this idea.

I don't see anyway for these SDA's to justify their business practices with Scripture.

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  • 1 month later...

So, denying a roof over their heads to people who require same, because they practice a specific kind of sin, is supposed to be a Christian act how exactly?

This might be the only opportunity for these two men to meet or be involved with SDA's.

Would they look back later in life and think "that landlady we had in Ontario...we know her religion was against homosexual behavior, but she never judged us and treated us kindly when we needed a place to live"?

I hope the property owners are just as scrupulous in ensuring that no consumption of alcohol or unclean meats, tax evasion, adultery, Sunday worship, using God's name in vain, gossip or lying takes place on their premises.

AJ

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If your apartment is the only shelter for many miles in your area then everyone should be crammed into it - to the extent that space will allow. Thus as many as possible can have a "shelter over their heads".

Is that the question? really?

in Christ,

Bob

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Juliet Stewart says her clients, a Seventh-day Adventist husband and wife, told her in no uncertain terms during a screening interview that they would never allow a gay couple to rent their basement apartment.

...

A few weeks ago the tribunal ordered that the gay couple in that case each receive $1,500 for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect’’ and the operators stop the discriminatory conduct.

The business had closed prior to the judgment.

religious persecution is indeed an ugly thing. Thanks for pointing this out.

in Christ,

Bob

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If one wants a certain type of tennant, one should not seek the services of a public agency.

One should rent privately instead, word of mouth, etc. Or not rent at all.

It's probably one strong reason EGW advised against God's people running hotels and vacation spots.

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So, denying a roof over their heads to people who require same, because they practice a specific kind of sin, is supposed to be a Christian act how exactly?

Your rhetorical question, as you framed it, makes the owners look pretty hard-hearted and cold. There is another side however, which isn't being brought into the discussion.

Namely that a person has the right to choose/decide who they enter into a contractual agreement with. For a contract to be binding, it it must be voluntary for both parties "A contract is a voluntary agreement between two or more parties that a court will enforce. The rights and obligations created by a contract apply only to the parties to the contract (i.e., those who agreed to them) and not to anyone else."

If we take away the right of a person to voluntarily enter a contractual agreement, we subjugate the freedom of the individual to the coercive power of the "state." Think that through. I'm guessing that neither you or I would like living in climate of coercion like that.

Rejoice always, sister.

G

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You might also want to think what you said through a bit as well.

Does your freedom of contract idea have room for refusing to do business with whoever you decide you don't like or agree with? Muslims? Catholics? Adventists? Hispanics? Old people? Non-white people? What types of businesses offering what types of goods or services can enjoy this freedom you speak of?

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Gerry, contracts and other arrangements are subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, part of the Constitution.

Then each province has Residential Housing legislation (Rental Boards). I think these all prohibit discrimination due to sexual orientation.

The landlords should have acquainted themselves with the law before engaging in a public business.

Or be prepared to pay the penalties.

Or be prepared to challenge the legislation.

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