May 20, 2015

The culture war comes to Mount Pearl, Newfoundland

Damian PennyRebel Blogger

When the editors signed me up to contribute to The Rebel's group blog, they asked me to keep an eye on stories down here in Atlantic Canada. And then a culture-war controversy blew up in my own hometown. Now that's some good timing.

A same-sex couple went to a business owned by someone opposed to same- sex marriage on religious grounds, and asked him to provide a service. But unlike similar cases in the United States, where the business owner has refused to provide the service in the first place, the owner of Today's Jewellers in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, took their money, did what they asked...and then prominently posted a large sign showing his disapproval. I leave it to you to decide if that's better.

A couple wants a refund after finding out the Mount Pearl jewelry store they went to for a custom engagement ring is displaying posters opposing same-sex marriage.

A photo of one of the posters reportedly on display at Today's Jewellers has been widely shared on social media, and has sparked talks of a boycott. It reads: “The Sanctity of Marriage IS UNDER ATTACK; Help Keep Marriage Between Man & Woman."

Nicole White and her fiancée, Pam Renouf, say the man they dealt with at the store knew they were a same-sex couple and didn’t appear to have any issues with it. In fact, they say the service was quite good, so they recommended the place to some friends.

“One of our guy friends went in to get a ring for his girlfriend, so him and his mom went in,” she said, adding his mother noted three posters in the store with messages opposing same-sex marriage. 

“She took the picture and sent it to one of our bridesmaids and said, ‘Are you sure this is the place that Nicole and Pam referred us to?’”

The posters were not on display during the couple’s previous visits to the store.

After initially refusing to return their deposit, owner Esau Jordon changed his mind, and says he has received death threats since the controversy blew up. (White and Renouf, it should be noted, have handled the situation in a very classy manner.)

I've long supported same-sex marriage, largely on the conservative grounds promoted by Andrew Sullivan before he decided to devote his life to gynecology. But considering the absolutely astonishing speed with which the practice has gone from a radical pipe dream to the status quo, I'm willing to cut opponents some slack. 

It wasn't that long ago even President Obama was on the record as opposed to it.  Instead of condemning all opponents of same-sex marriage as bigots and hatemongers, I prefer to let them come to their own realization that the sky has not fallen since gay marriage became the law of the land.

I also believe a business owner has every right to take a stand on a controversial issue, and to use his business to publicize it.  And then he should be prepared to accept the consequences.

If Jardon was facing criminal charges or a dubious human-rights complaint because of his sign, I would stand up for his right to express his beliefs.  But that's the thing: so far, he isn't facing any such thing.  He just has people angry at him for what he did.

And, to put it bluntly, what the heck was he expecting? The entire state of Indiana found itself briefly boycotted over an ill-conceived law that would allegedly have allowed business owners to refuse service for same-sex wedding ceremonies. This is society's hot-button issue of the moment, and while no one can condone death threats being made against Jardon and his business, it's hard to believe he didn't know this might blow up in his face.

If a company decided to post a huge "so many Christians, so few lions" sign on its premises, I would likely take my business elsewhere, and those offended by Jardon's sign have the right to do the same. That's the market at work. This isn't a freedom of expression issue, as much as it is a very,very bad business decision.


Follow The Megaphone on Twitter.

JOIN for more news and commentary you won’t find anywhere else.

You must be logged in to comment. Click here to log in.
commented 2015-05-24 20:18:36 -0400
Tell Baronelle Stutzman or Aaron and Melissa Klein that “the sky has not fallen”. Owners of a private business have every right to refuse service so that they do not act against their conscience. This was perhaps a very good business decision – people who don’t agree with him can take their business elsewhere, but he will have overwhelming support from others, as demonstrated in the funding efforts for the above-mentioned people.
commented 2015-05-24 19:05:10 -0400
I cannot even believe this blog entry…. "If Jardon was facing criminal charges or a dubious human-rights complaint because of his sign, I would stand up for his right to express his beliefs. But that’s the thing: so far, he isn’t facing any such thing. " Seriously?!?! No he is facing much worse- the court of public opinion brought on by these so called “classy” people blowing this out of proportion because of his beliefs. If the media was going to report on this at all it should have been from the perspective of the jeweller who was discriminated against based on personal beliefs.
The “couple” broke their contract and demanded their money back- why? poor customer service? NO…poor pricing? NO….because of someone else’s PERSONALLY held convictions which did NOT impact how the owner carried out business with them—-aka DISCRIMINATION based on religious beliefs where everyone turns a blind eye. They were treated courteous- the way anyone else would have been treated and ALL of us Newfoundlanders should be standing up for and supporting freedom of speech and freedom of religion at ALL times- not just when it becomes a human rights issue or someone is facing criminal charges. We all have the right to an opinion, just as we all have the right to shop where we want and purchase what we want- but once we enter into a contract that costs people money- we don’t have the right to duck out because if we decide we don’t like their opinion or religious beliefs. KUDOS to the JEWELLERS who handled this in a mature and classy way- even when they didn’t have to.
commented 2015-05-22 11:24:18 -0400
Liza Rosie, “Thank goodness it is not an issue.”
That’s exactly why Jardon handled it the way he did. Had he refused outright he most certainly would have faced criminal charges or possibly a human rights complaint. They said “the man at the store did not have an issue with it” so it sounds like it wasn’t Jardon who waited on them. Putting up the sign was an effort to avoid the issue be repeated and says to me he wanted it understood up front but it was too late to undo. I disagree that those in business shouldn’t be allowed to refuse service. It’s one thing if it’s a franchise but if it’s a privately owned business, the owner should be entitled to autonomy in their business practice.
commented 2015-05-21 07:27:07 -0400
Damien, I am amazed that you think that these two lesbians handled the matter is a such a classy manner. They ran to the media to whine about the jeweller – nothing classy about that. And please, using Obama as an example for us to follow is very difficult to stomach, especially considering that he was in favour of same-sex marriage long before 2008. Axelrod, his former close advisor, revealed that Obama lied about holding to the traditional definition of marriage. Imagine Obama caught in a lie!
commented 2015-05-21 01:42:01 -0400
‘If Jardon was facing criminal charges or a dubious human-rights complaint because of his sign, I would stand up for his right to express his beliefs. But that’s the thing: so far, he isn’t facing any such thing. He just has people angry at him for what he did."
Thank goodness it is not an issue. So who cares that this lesbian couple didn’t like the jewellers sign, they took their business elsewhere.
commented 2015-05-20 16:29:40 -0400
Very well said Damian! I very much agree with you and have also long also been one of those oddballs who “supports gay marriage for socially conservative reasons.” :) I look forward to more of your posts and learning about what’s going on in your region of the continent. :)