A same sex couple from Woodstock says a wedding videography business in Brantford refused to film their wedding because of their sexual orientation.
In a post on Facebook, Kelly Roberts posted an email exchange with Cara Hamstra from Caramount Pictures in which Hamstra turns down Roberts’ request.
“I say this with much care, because I know that your union is incredibly important to you, but we do not film homosexual weddings,” says Hamstra in the email.
Roberts tells CityNews she was looking for a videography service that would fit her wedding budget when she came across Caramount Pictures online. She felt they met all the criteria she and her partner, Mallory Arthur, had in mind and reached out through the contact form on the website.
“I make it very clear to possible vendors that it’s two brides just so I avoid this situation,” says Roberts, adding that she went through something similar earlier this year. Nevertheless, she was shocked by the blatant response she received.
“I kept saying ‘oh my God, this is a joke right?’ This is not real,” she says. “My heart was racing, my hands were shaky because I was just so angry, so sad … she didn’t even try and mask the homophobia and it was just so upfront. Usually you’ll get it indirectly but that was just so direct.”
Roberts did not respond to Hamstra’s email saying she did not feel it was possible to change her mind, nor did she want to work with the videographer any more.
“I unfortunately think she’s so incredibly talented and she has everything that we wanted for our video,” says Roberts.
Roberts says this is the second time they’ve experienced a response like this during their wedding planning.
Back in February, she and her partner met with an officiant in London, Ontario, who, upon realizing they were a same-sex couple, said his religion did not support gay marriage and he would not be able to perform the ceremony.
Her frustration led her to post online to ask for alternate suggestions and warn others.
“For anyone who is in the LGBTQ community or considers themselves an ally in the area, that is something I would want to know before hiring a vendor,” she says. “I also don’t want some other same sex couple to reach out to them and get that response and have that response totally destroy their spirit. I felt like hiding a homophobe was not the right call.”
Roberts says she did not expect the massive reaction she got online within less than 24 hours.
“I can’t keep up with anything on the original post,” she says, because the response has been overwhelming. “I have so many people sending me offers or support and it’s amazing feeling that supported. I just had no idea this would happen.”
CityNews reached out to Caramount Pictures for comment, but did not hear back at publishing time. Their Facebook and Instagram pages have also been deleted.
Human rights lawyer Shane Martinez says at first glance, the situation looks like a straightforward case of discrimination.
“This does appear to be a prima facie case of discrimination on account of sexual orientation and its contrary to Section 1 of the Human Rights Code of Ontario … which states that every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods or facilities without discrimination,” he explains.
Martinez says religious institutions and officials may be exempt from those rules because there are “competing rights” at play, however a private business such as a videographer is not exempt.
He says Roberts and her partner have the option to file an application under the Human Rights Code with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to seek redress for the incident. The tribunal could possibly order the business to pay financial compensation or implement human rights policies and engage in human rights training.
Martinez believes while a business can argue freedom of speech or religious reasons to refuse service, that will not get very far with the tribunal.
He also adds that unfortunately, he’s not entirely shocked by the couple’s experience.
“It doesn’t surprise me, it is disappointing. But I think it is an opportunity as well to realize and recognize that these things are still going on and to speak up against them and to try and make sure that we do better going forward,” he says.
Roberts says she wants her experience to be an opportunity to challenge homophobic beliefs and perhaps educate people and “hopefully, maybe change the way they think.”
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” she says.
Story by Erick Espinosa and Dilshad Burman - CityNews