B.C. lesbians fight to hold wedding reception in Catholic hall

A B.C. lesbian couple has taken their fight to hold their wedding reception at a Catholic group's hall to the human rights tribunal.

A B.C. lesbian couple, who accuse a Catholic men's group of discriminating against them by refusing to rent them a hall for their wedding reception, took their case to a human rights tribunal Monday.

The hearing is sure to further inflame passions over the issue, given that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled last month that religious officials opposed to same-sex marriages do not have to perform them.

Deborah Chymyshyn and Tracey Smith rented a Knights of Columbus hall in Port Coquitlam for their wedding reception back in 2003.

They allege the group cancelled the booking after finding out it was for a same-sex couple.

The women claim it's discriminatory to offer a facility to the public and then say a particular group can't use it.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal began hearing their case on Monday.

The couple's lawyer, Barbara Findlay, said they didn't realize a Catholic group operated the hall when they rented it.

She said that after the women paid their deposit and sent out their wedding invitations, the Knights of Columbus backed out.

"They got a call saying they had learned the celebration was in relation to a same-sex marriage and they couldn't countenance that, so they cancelled the booking," said Findlay.

The head of the Knights of Columbus in Port Coquitlam, Elemer Lazar, declined a CBC News request for an interview. But he has said in the past that he doesn't understand why a same-sex couple would want to book a Catholic facility.

The hearing is expected to last four days.

Court decisions in seven provinces and one territory have already paved the way for same-sex marriages.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has said the federal government will proceed with legislation early in 2005 legalizing same-sex marriage across the country.