On average, 2.4 million weddings are performed in the U.S. every year. Since the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, the number of gay marriages performed has jumped up by 33%. And while there’s still some debate as to whether vendors can decline to host or perform their services for gay and lesbian weddings here in America, our neighbors to the north have a much more clear-cut policy. Now, one Canadian photographer is in violation of the law after declining to capture the nuptials of a Montreal-based gay couple.
Mike Cerantola and his fiancé, Victor Rivas, were in the midst of scheduling a consultation with photographer Giulio Granata when the shutterbug dropped a bombshell. After Cerantola informed the photographer that there was, in fact, no bride but two grooms, Granata sent a response of refusal, albeit a polite one. It read, in part:
“Mike, I regret that I cannot photograph this wedding because it is at odds with my personal religious beliefs. I’m so sorry, and I hope you’re not offended. I do wish you success, and I hope you can find what you’re looking for.”
Cerantola expressed that he was hurt by the photographer’s reasoning, but whether or not the letter caused offense pales in comparison to the fact that Granata is actually now in violation of Canadian law. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, passed in 1977, states that this form of discrimination is illegal.
Fo Niemi of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations told CTV, “You cannot discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation, especially in the case of commercial business services available to the public.” He has recommended that the couple take legal action against the photographer.
If this event occurred in the U.S., the case might be a lot tougher to prosecute in a court of law. Not only are federal civil cases quite rare — experts estimate only 1% of civil court cases ever go to trial — but the waters are still muddied when it comes to whether vendors are allowed to refuse to serve customers on the basis of sexual orientation. All told, only 23 states have outlawed this type of discrimination.
It’s such a hot-button issue that some vendors have completely stopped providing their services to weddings in general in order to avoid the political crossfire. Others are taking a definitive stance, like baker Jack Phillips, who is attempting to fight for his right to refuse gay and lesbian customers in the U.S. Supreme Court. Previously, the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear his case.
While the photographer, in this case, experienced quite a bit of backlash on social media, there’s also a happy ending for the couple: after hearing of their plight, several area photographers have stepped in to offer to capture their wedding day — for free, in some cases.
Rivas wrote in a statement, “Mike and I touched beyond belief at the humanity you all have shown us, and I would like to personally thank you all for your candor and helpful information. Truly it’s heart warming. I have no words for the kindness you’ve all expressed all I can say is heart felt THANK YOU!”