By Terry Vanderheyden

VANCOUVER, November 30, 2005 ( – The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has demanded that a Roman Catholic men’s fraternity, the Knights of Columbus, award a lesbian couple damages for refusing to rent them a hall for their same-sex “wedding.”

The Tribunal said the Knight’s, however, had the right, as a religious group, to refuse the facility to the women, but that the women should be compensated for the “undue hardship” that cancelling the event had on them.

“The Knights could have taken steps such as meeting with the complainants to explain the situation, formally apologizing, immediately offering to reimburse the complainants for any expenses they had incurred and, perhaps, offering assistance in finding another solution,” the tribunal’s written decision stated.

In 2003, Deborah Chymyshyn and Tracey Smith rented the hall in Port Coquitlam. When the Knights became aware that it was to be for a homosexual couple, they cancelled the booking. The Tribunal heard the case in January and the ruling was handed down yesterday.

The Knights, faithful to church teaching against homosexual marriage, cancelled the rental contract that had been signed, returned the couple’s deposit and paid for the rental of a new hall and the reprinting of wedding invitations. That still didn’t satisfy the two lesbians who went to the Human Rights Commission.

The Knight’s lawyer, George Macintosh, told the CP that it is untrue that the Knights did not try to accommodate the women. “The complainants located another hall the next morning, so that was taken care of,” he said. “The Knights, when they found out about the misunderstanding, apologized to the complainants for the misunderstanding and offered to refund the hall rental. The communication just broke down when the Knights asked for a release to be signed before refunding the hall rental and the cost of printing the invitations, and that led to the hearing.”

See the full BCHRT decision:

See related coverage:
Knights of Columbus Challenged by Canadian Lesbians for Refusing to Rent Hall for ‘Wedding’ Reception