Gay couple 'shocked' at Beulah Print's refusal to make civil partnership invitations
An Irish printing company has refused to make invitations for a gay couple’s civil partnership ceremony, citing religious beliefs.
Jonathon Brennan (29), from Drogheda, Co Louth, said he was “infuriated and shocked” when the owner of local printers, Beulah Print & Design, told him they would not do business with him because “we don’t agree with homosexuality”.
The salon owner, who will become civil partnered to his boyfriend of eight years, John Kierans (35), in August, said he had been doing business with the printers for four years before the refusal.
Mr Brennan said: “It came to the time that we were to organise getting our invitations printed for our ceremony. I contacted the printers, because they know me, and they’ve done some work for me before, and I was quite happy with their work.”
He said the co-owner, Noel Tuite, initially agreed to print the invitations, but when he visited Mr Brennan’s salon yesterday afternoon, it became apparent that he had changed his mind.
“He said, ‘Myself and my business partner are devout Christians. We don’t believe in gay marriage, and we don’t agree with homosexuality. So in this instance, there’s a conflict of interest, and we won’t be able to do business with you.’
“I was shocked. I didn’t know what was going to come out of his mouth. He said it would be the same instance if somebody came in and they wanted to get a picture of a nude woman printed. We wouldn’t be able to do that either.
“I said, ‘I wish I had been aware of your conflicts of interest four years ago before I started doing business with you.’ He went to shake my hand, but I wouldn’t shake it, and he left. I was just infuriated by this, and shocked, that this was the attitude from a local businessman. Not in my adult life have I ever experienced anything like this.”
Mr Brennan added: “The gay marriage referendum is coming up, and it’s not an open and shut case. A lot of the younger generation would believe that gay people should be entitled to get married. But not everybody thinks that way. I feel it is important to highlight that.”
This morning Beulah Print released a statement outlining why it took the decision.
It said: "We, at Beulah Print, are Bible-believing Christians who are committed to standing by our conscience and God’s Word.
“We have never hidden our faith from our customers and represent the gospel at every opportunity. We are not against homosexuals however, we do not support same sex marriage, which printing wedding invitations would do.
“We believe the love of God is extended to all people and that He has called us all to walk in the light of His word, for He is the way, the truth and the life.”
Mike O'Leary, co-owner of the printers, also defended the decision not to print the invites, citing his Christian beliefs, and said that it is not the first time the company has refused to take orders from same-sex couples.
"We have turned down other classes of work that we'd not be happy to print - mainly things that are borderline pornographic," he said.
The dispute is just weeks away from when Irish voters will have their say on whether to extend marriage rights to gay couples in a referendum.
The case echoes a dispute in Northern Ireland where Ashers Bakers in Belfast, also a Christian owned company, refused to make a cake that carried a pro-gay marriage slogan.
In a statement, the printers added: "We, at Beulah Print, are Bible-believing Christians who are committed to standing by our conscience and God's Word.
"We have been in business for 12 years during which time we have held to our convictions and have at times declined a variety of work which we felt was clearly contrary to our beliefs.
"We have never hidden our faith from our customers and represent the gospel at every opportunity.
"We are not against homosexuals, however, we do not support same sex marriage, which printing wedding invitations would do."
Mr O'Leary also included a biblical reference in defending their position: "We believe the love of God is extended to all people and that He has called us all to walk in the light of His word, for He is the way, the truth and the life."
The newly created Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), declined to comment on the case, but it states that the Equal Status Acts bans discrimination in the supply of goods and services across nine grounds including sexual orientation.
Mr Brennan said the couple would be seeking legal advice before deciding whether to lodge a complaint of discrimination against the printers.
A bid by Democratic Unionists to introduce a so-called conscience clause into equality laws in Northern Ireland was launched in the wake of legal action being taken against Ashers.
Tiernan Brady, of the Dublin-based Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen), said: "Without getting into the specifics of this case, the law of the land in Ireland is very clear - it's against the law to deny goods or services.
"That's a good law and it's there for a reason, as it protects people."
Mr Brady said it was his experience that the denial of goods or services to gay people was a rare occurrence in Ireland with the vast majority of the public in favour of laws to protect the community.
"We know how to obey good laws in Ireland," he said.
"When it comes to good services being denied because they are gay or lesbian, it's something we rarely hear about now, and that's a good thing."
Belfast Telegraph Digital