Gay Alliance Toward Equality vs. Vancouver Sun

In 1979, a human rights formal complaint was filed against a popular newspaper corporation based in British Columbia called Vancouver Sun. This complaint was filed on behalf of the Gay Alliance Towards Equality association, otherwise known as GATE because their fundamental human right to be included was not being upheld. They believed the achievement of rights for gays and lesbians would be through an approach of lobbying, the approach of electoral (a transition from authoritarian rule towards a democratic rule), litigation, and the organizing of public pickets.

GATE believed that gay liberation can be achieved by the approaches above and stated that gay people, “have the right to self- determination and control over their own lives.”

GATE created an ad named Gay Tide. This advertisement promoted gay inclusiveness in a modernizing world.

In part one, section three of the Human Rights Code, discrimination in public facilities essentially states that: “No person shall deny any person or class of persons any accommodation, service, or facility customarily available to the public; unless reasonable cause exists for such denial or discrimination. For the subsection, the race, religion, color, ancestry, or place of origin of any person or class of persons shall not constitute reasonable cause; and the sex of any person shall not constitute reasonable cause [within certain qualifications].” 


This correlates to the case because the Vancouver Sun rejected to print a commercial merchandising the sale of subscription Gay Tide, an advertisement promoting gay inclusiveness. GATE believed that their denial of publishment was due to the discrimination of their sexual orientation. Yet, the Vancouver Sun said the rejection of the advertisement was because “the ad offended public decency and would be offensive towards its readers.” 


A board of inquiry was put together to discuss the complaint. The board did believe there was a violation of section 3 of the human rights code after this issue was declared the board ordered the company to make a classified advertising section for the gay tide subscription. The Sun responded by appealing the case to the Supreme Court of British Columbia with the argument of appeals coming from section 18 of the human rights code.


“Section 18 of the Code allows a religious, philanthropic, educational, fraternal or social institution or organization, which primarily serves the interests of a particular group, to restrict membership or participation to members of that group.”

The Sun’s appeal was denied originally, but the Sun’s motivation to keep Gay Tide subscriptions out of their company led to the sun appealing for the court to reconsider its decision to the court of appeal based on a majority vote decided to let the case continue. The motivation was used to recognize the intent in terms Sun’s intent was not to discriminate against the gay community but to appeal to the greater majority of their viewers.


The board members concluded that there were no reasonable times to justify discrimination and no basis on which court should be allowed to decide otherwise. So the sun was allowed to refuse the publications of Gay Tide in their papers. Because section three in the human rights code was added in 1977 this was the first case the courts had in this instance so there was no basis or cases to go off of. The courts had to determine this decision based on little knowledge and no past experiences. It is believed by some that it was the reason why the case was not dismissed from the beginning.


This ruling is justified if the GATE community wanted the Gay Tide ad published they should be able to find a company that wanted to publish them without starting a dispute. The Vancouver Sun’s main priority is to appeal to the vast majority interest. Unfortunately, gay pride in the 1970s was not widely accepted and there would be a decrease in viewers if the Sun published the Gay Tide ad.


This case was an important determinant for cases in the future because it was the first time the human rights board investigated a complaint of sexual orientation discrimination. This case was an important part of future LGBTQ cases because it shows the awareness and the limitations of the government and the laws that are laid before them. The court system siding with Sun represents that the court system is agreeance that being gay is indeed considered offensive to people outside of an LGBTQ community.


The Gay Tide case was an important and controversial case that affected the minority group of heterosexual people. The case was not in favor of the minority group who filed the complaint but the ruling was justified even if it was an unfair one in terms of liberation in the gay community.


The courts had to determine the decision of the case with no prior experience because there was never an investigation of a complaint of the discrimination against a heterosexual before so the decision one would say was historically groundbreaking. Even though the case wasn’t ruled in favor of the LGBTQ community it was still a groundbreaking step in the right direction towards the liberation of the heterosexual community.

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