A restaurant that refused to seat a blind patron because its workers allegedly believed his seeing-eye dog was gay has been fined $1,500 by the Australian Equal Opportunity Tribunal. The restaurant, located in Adelaide, also agreed to provide a written apology to Ian Jolly for turning him away.
I have to admit I saw this story a few days ago but did not take it seriously until this morning (not that I am going to take it that seriously, really). I assumed that this was just a case of workers discriminating against a man they believed to be gay and later offering some stupid excuse. But that turns out not to be true, except that "stupid" does still seem to apply.
According to the Sunday Mail's report, anyway, the workers would probably not have believed Mr. Jolly himself to be gay (although they may well have believed him to be Jolly). He was there with a woman, Chris Lawrence, who the report described as his "partner." Of course, she might just be his business partner, but none of the reports I have seen offer any reason to suggest that the workers were really discriminating against Mr. Jolly himself based on what they believed to be his orientation. Further, at the hearing, the restaurant's defense was apparently to admit it had discriminated but to contend that discriminating against gay dogs is not against the law. "The staff genuinely believed," it argued, "that Nudge was an ordinary pet dog which had been desexed to become a gay dog."
There is a whole lot wrong with that statement, but I'll just say that whether or not the staff genuinely believed that either Mr. Jolly or Nudge was gay, they could certainly see that Mr. Jolly was blind, and should have been able to see that Nudge was a seeing-eye dog. Why in the world they would have kept out a seeing-eye dog because of anybody's sexual orientation is completely baffling.
Or at least it was. Then somebody pointed out to me (via Twitter), that what probably happened here is that "Australians can't understand their own accent." You see, it turns out that in Australia, service animals are called "guide dogs," so the conversation must have gone something like this:
"Mate, you can't bring that dog in 'ere. We don't allow dogs."
"No, no -- 'e's a guide dog." [You have to say it like Crocodile Dundee.]
"Gay dog? I'll be stuffed! D'ya think I got kangaroos loose in me top paddock? Well, we don't allow gay dogs, neither, so rack off."
"Don't lair it up, mate -- 'e's no bitzer. I said 'e's a guide dog."
"You're a chop short of a barbie -- I said, rack off, which I understand to be an Australian slang expression meaning 'to depart swiftly.'"
Something like that, anyway.
I don't know if the "guide dog"/"gay dog" explanation is really what happened, but I hope it is.