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Ontario wedding videographer facing allegations of denying service to same-sex couples

Click to play video: 'Same-sex couples rejected by Brantford wedding photographer'
Same-sex couples rejected by Brantford wedding photographer
WATCH ABOVE: Caramount Pictures in Brantford is receiving public backlash online after several same-sex couples claim it refused to film their weddings because they “don’t film homosexual weddings.” Kamil Karamali reports – Jul 21, 2020

A wedding videographer is coming under fire on social media after a Facebook post suggested she denies service based on sexual orientation.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Monday, Kelly Roberts posted on Facebook a screenshot of an email she says she received from Cara Hamstra of Caramount Pictures.

According to the screenshot, the email explicitly stated, “we do not film homosexual weddings.”

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“No one should be refused a service because of sexual orientation, race or other,” Elayna Holm-Laursen, a relative to Roberts by marriage, told Global News.

“I feel that this is disgusting of a company that celebrates love between people to be prejudiced because she is not marrying a man. I see this kind of behaviour daily on the internet, it just hit home when it happened to someone who is a part of my family.”

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A Facebook post from a profile with the name Kelly Mary allegedly showing an email from Caramount Pictures.
A Facebook post from a profile with the name Kelly Mary allegedly showing an email from Caramount Pictures. via Facebook

Within 22 hours, the post had more than 3,600 shares and over 1,600 comments. By noon Tuesday, the Facebook page for Caramount Pictures had a review of 1.0 out of five based on over 870 people, including other reviews alleging similar incidents.

The allegations also made their way to Twitter, where Olympic figure skating silver medallist Kirsten Moore-Towers suggested prospective clients look elsewhere, writing “Please do not hire them for your photography.”

The Caramount Pictures Facebook page and website have since been taken down.

Global News has also spoken with another couple who allege they, too, were refused as clients of Caramount Pictures due to their sexual orientation.

Justiss Anderson says when she and her partner Symone Roberts contacted Caramount Pictures last year, she was told they don’t shoot or video any same-sex couples.

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“We were a little shocked by that but didn’t really think anything of it up until we had seen how many other people that they’ve done this to,” she told Global News.

“People need to know about it. Businesses like that need to be called out, they need to be questioned why they don’t accept certain people. I definitely think it’s good that it’s finally out there.”

Before the page was taken down, it had an average review of 1.0 out of 5.
Before the page was taken down, it had an average review of 1.0 out of 5. via Facebook

Local photographer Amber-Lyn Farrington, who identified herself as pansexual in a Facebook post, called the allegations against Caramount Pictures “unacceptable” and “appalling.”

“Even if they wanted to decline, why tell that couple why you’re declining? You could make up any reason under the sun, you can say you’re not available, but they intentionally wanted to let this couple know that they don’t approve of them,” she told Global News.

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Farrington says she wanted to counter “that act of hate with an act of love.” In a Facebook post on her business page, Honey & Lux, she wrote: “If you’re a gay/queer couple and feel like making some noise around this or just celebrating your beautiful perfect love — I’d like to offer you a free photo session.”

“I want to offer that to community members in Brantford who will see (the email) message and be made to feel like they’re not valid. And I want the opposite to be true,” she said.

“I want them to know that that’s not the view of everyone and I don’t want that to take up so much space. And it’s taking up a lot of space. It’s being shared around, people are seeing that. And I don’t want that to be the only message that people are seeing.”

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Andrew Monkhouse, employment and human rights lawyer and managing partner of Monkhouse Law, says businesses like videographers and photographers fall under provincial law. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, actions that discriminate against people based on sexual orientation in a protected social area are prohibited.

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“In Ontario, all persons are meant to be free from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and that includes that service providers don’t have the ability to refuse people based on their sexual orientation, despite how the owners or people who are providing the service feel about that,” he explained to Global News.

“Generally in Ontario — unlike, for instance, the United States — the law has sided with the person who has requested a service. They put an obligation on those providing services to provide those services in a way that is non-discriminatory based on the criteria that Ontario has laid out. And the onus is on them to find a way to be able to be non-discriminatory in that way.”

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If someone feels they have been discriminated against based on sexual orientation, Monkhouse says they can file a complaint with the human rights tribunal. He says it usually has to be filed within a year of the alleged discriminatory act and can be filed against businesses or individuals.

“It’s assumed that discriminatory actions cause a discriminatory feeling towards people as a loss of dignity in terms of having your rights discriminated against. Generally, if it was proven that it was discrimination, there’d be some award in that regard. The issue is, of course, those are hard to mathematically calculate,” he said.

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Global News has repeatedly reached out to Hamstra for comment but had yet to receive any response as of publication time.

— with files from Global News’ Kamil Karamali and Anushka Yadav.

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