Gay couple may sue Christian B&B owners
Mon, 22 Mar 2010
A homosexual couple who, on Friday night, were denied a double room in a Berkshire B&B owned by Christians say they are considering suing.
Mike Judge debates the issue
on BBC Radio Five Live
The Christian owners, Mike and Susanne Wilkinson, say it is a matter of religious conscience and they should be free to follow their beliefs in their own home.
But the homosexual pair, Michael Black and John Morgan, say they have suffered unlawful discrimination and are considering whether to sue.
The Christian couple are being advised by The Christian Institute. The case mirrors that of Christian B&B owners from Cornwall who are currently being sued over the same issue.
This latest incident took place on Friday night. Prior to arriving at the B&B in Cookham, near Maidenhead in Berkshire, a man had booked a double room by telephone for two people, giving only one name and paying a deposit.
When the two men turned up at the B&B the owner, Mrs Wilkinson, realised that the couple were homosexual.
She politely explained that the guest house has a policy of not offering double beds to homosexual couples.
She could not offer the couple single room accommodation as the other rooms were fully booked. The deposit was repaid immediately.
Homosexual equality laws introduced under Labour in 2007 make it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation when providing services.
However, other laws offer legal protection for religious liberty.
Mrs Wilkinson told the BBC: “I don’t see why I should change my mind and my beliefs I’ve held for years just because the government should force it on me.
“I am not a hotel, I am a guest house and this is a private house.”
But the homosexual couple say they have suffered unlawful discrimination.
Mr Black said: “She apologised for turning us away. I asked for a refund of the deposit, which she gave me without quibble.
“We stayed polite and, to be fair, she wasn’t rude or abusive.
“All she said about her reasons for turning us away was that it went against her convictions for us to stay there.”
He added: “I’ve reported the matter to Thames Valley Police who have confirmed that they are following it up.”
The matter has been logged by police as a “homophobic incident”. However, the matter falls under civil law and not criminal law. As such the police will be taking no further action.
Mr Black says he and his partner are considering whether to sue the Christians.
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “I have spoken with the Wilkinsons today. They are understandably distressed that they could be facing a costly legal action simply for acting upon their sincerely held religious beliefs.
“It’s not just their B&B, it’s their home too. Nobody should be forced to act against their own beliefs within their own home.
“Whether you agree with the Wilkinsons’ beliefs or not, a diverse society is one that respects diversity of opinion. Surely the world is big enough to let people disagree.
“Suing someone because you don’t like their beliefs is illiberal, undemocratic and has no place in a free society.”
But homosexual lobby group Stonewall says the Christians have broken the law.
Spokesman Derek Munn said: “In open and shut cases of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation the law’s quite clear – it’s illegal for businesses to turn away gay customers or discriminate against them when providing goods or services, and this can’t be overridden by personal prejudice.”