Leading Perth wedding/portrait photographer Jason Tey is free to get on with his life following the withdrawal of legal action alleging sexual orientation discrimination.
In 2018 Jason Tey was approached by a same sex couple who wanted him to photograph their children. He agreed to do so, but also revealed he had a ‘conflict of belief’ on the issue of same sex marriage which related to his religion, and that the couple might be more comfortable hiring someone else. He describes himself on his website as ‘A Christian Photographer based in Perth’.
One of the mothers of the children subsequently brought a complaint to the Western Australian Equal Opportunity Commission, demanding he admit the alleged discrimination and publish an apology on his website and social media pages for two months. He refused to do so. The matter was escalated to the State Administrative Tribunal – a court of law.
(Our report back in November last year provides more detail and garnered some predominantly civil comment.)
The hearing was set down for December last year and then re-scheduled for February 14.
‘We were prepping for next stage – a hearing before a judge at the WA State Administrative Tribunal – when we were contacted by her lawyer,’ Jason told Inside Imaging. ‘They said they realised that even if she won, it wasn’t likely to change my beliefs.’
He said the complaint should have been rejected well before it came to the stage of a court hearing.
‘It’s taken up seven months of my life. Now it’s over it’s a good thing.’
He said that while being forced to prove his innocence had been an ordeal, it fortunately hadn’t had a great impact on his successful photography business.
‘It didn’t harm my business too much as its didn’t emerge as a mainstream story,’ he said. ‘If it had gone to trial it would have been bad. If it had gone more public.
‘I’d do the same thing if it happened again. I didn’t do anything wrong to begin with,’ he said.
Jason Tey is not your average suburban photographer. He was named as one of the Top 150 international wedding photographers in 2016; was in the Top 30 in the International Wedding Photographer Awards in 2016 and 2017; winner of the 2018 ‘Pre-Wedding’ category and runner up for the 2018 Grand Prize in the IWP, and is a member of Fearless Photographers, an elite international photographers’ group focused on edgy, creative wedding photography.
He warned that equal opportunity laws can leave small businesses quite vulnerable.
‘It could happen to you [Inside Imaging],’ he said. ‘Say you declined to publish something arguing a minority position on sex or religion. If they want to they could take it to the tribunal.’
News of his experience with the equal opportunity powers last year coincided with the closure of wedding magazine White after advertising support was withdrawn due to the Christian publishers decision not to feature same-sex couples.
‘A campaign was launched targeting the magazine, our team and our advertisers,’ the publishers wrote in their farewell note. ‘Couples who have featured in our magazine have also been the subject of online abuse despite their individual beliefs. We’re really saddened by this.
‘The result has been that a number of advertisers withdrew their sponsorship out of fear of being judged, or in protest. We have had to recognise the reality that White Magazine is no longer economically viable.’