The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has found that a regional newspaper group did not discriminate against a gay man when they refused to print a Christmas notice he submitted about his late partner.
The WRC said Iconic Newspapers Ltd, which prints 20 regional Irish titles, did not discriminate against Frank Kelly based on his sexual orientation for refusing to print his notice.
Mr Kelly’s partner died in July 2017 and he took the discrimination case against Iconic Newspapers when they refused to publish the Christmas notice in their December 2018 edition.
The newspaper, which was not named in the case, had previously published a month’s mind in September 2017 and a Christmas notice in their December 2017 edition, both for Mr Kelly’s late partner.
WRC Adjudication Officer, Marguerite Buckley stated that she accepted the reason they declined to publish the Christmas 2018 notice “was due to the intervention of the next of kin of the deceased”.
Ms Buckey stated that if the next of kin of the deceased had not intervened, “I have no reason to believe that the Christmas greeting would not be published”.
The Regional Managing Director of Iconic Newspapers told the tribunal that the group received a solicitor’s letter from a representative of the deceased’s next of kin in November 2018.
In the letter, they stated that they would need to see any future notices regarding the deceased before they were published:
“Our client wants you to ensure that no memorials, notices, messages or such like are to be published(…) relating to the deceased without prior notice to us so that we can consider and advise on whether such notices in question are appropriate for publication having regard to all the surrounding circumstances”.
In December 2018 when Mr Kelly submitted his Christmas message, Iconic Newspapers contacted Mr Kelly and advised him of the solicitor’s letter they had received.
Iconic Newspapers Ltd also contacted the solicitor to inform them of the notice received regarding the deceased.
The solicitor replied and stated, “under no circumstances should the Claimant’s communication and/or notice be published by you”.
The Regional Managing Director of Iconic Newspapers said they decided not to print the notice irrespective of the gender or sexual orientation of any parties concerned.
The newspaper explained that they were caught in a row between the deceased’s next of kin and his life partner.
Mr Kelly, who confirmed he was not the spouse or the civil partner of the deceased, said that “his life was left in a state of torment and pain” as a result of the newspaper’s refusal to publish his piece.
He stated that all he wanted to do “was to be allowed to express how much he missed his late partner especially at Christmas time and to be treated like any other loving couple in bereavement, a time of great loss and sorrow”.
Mr Kelly further stated that the refusal had inflicted mental torment and that it stopped him from grieving properly.
Mr Kelly added that his life partner’s family have refused to acknowledge their relationship and claimed that his request would not have been refused were it not for his sexual orientation.
This case highlights the importance of marriage to ensure couple’s rights are protected legally.
While many protections for LGBT+ families are still yet to be addressed by the Irish Government, married couples have increased rights and obligations in a court of law.
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