Gay couple turned away by Christian B&B owner

April 30, 2010 at 11:02 am 2 comments

Under the 2006 Equality Act, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual based on their sexual orientation. This is the law that Susanne Wilkinson has been accused of breaking after turning away a homosexual couple from her B&B in Cookham, Berkshire, as it is against her religious convictions to allow two men to sleep in the same bed under her roof. 

Black, 62, and Morgan, 56, who were turned away from a Berkshire B&B for being gay.

Black, 62, and Morgan, 56, who were turned away from a Berkshire B&B for being gay.

Visitors to the property’s website are assured that ‘A warm and friendly welcome awaits all guests’, although this was not quite the experience received by Michael Black, 62, and his partner John Morgan, 56. Having never previously experienced homophobia, the couple were ‘shocked and embarrassed’ to be turned away after being greeted in an ‘unwelcoming, cold way’ by Mrs. Wilkinson. 

The couple reported the incident to the Thames Valley Police and Derek Munn, Director of Public Affairs for the charity Stonewall, stated that ‘it’s illegal for business to turn away gay customers or discriminate against them when providing goods or services, and this can’t be overridden by personal prejudice.’ 

However, shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, caused controversy by claiming that, while he didn’t disagree with the law, ‘we need to allow people to have their own consciences… [Individuals] should have the right to decide who does and doesn’t come into their own home.’ 

Following much criticism, Grayling later apologised for these comments, but for many B&B owners this remains a grey area. Mrs. Wilkinson argued that her property is a private home rather than a hotel, and that she should have the right to exercise religious freedom within it. After all, pubs are able to refuse entry to a customer without having to give a reason. 

Mrs. Wilkinson also stated that, had the couple given her prior warning, she would have advised them not to come. To this Mr. Black responded, ‘It would be like saying to someone who runs a guest house, “I’m black or Muslim or blue-eyed”, just in case they have a problem with it.’ 

According to Mr. Black, Mrs. Wilkinson apologised to the couple and returned their deposit to them. ‘We stayed polite and, to be fair, she wasn’t rude or abusive.’ 

What are your thoughts on this issue? Should B&Bs, as private homes, have the right to choose who stays under their roof, or do you agree with the couple’s decision to report the incident to the police?

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. MK  |  April 30, 2010 at 11:10 am

    While I disagree in principle with Mrs Wilkinson’s actions, I do feel that everyone should have the right to choose who comes into their own home. As Mrs Wilkinson expected the couple to give her prior warning as to their sexual orientation, perhaps she should state on her website that Christian principles are upheld in her B&B, which would prevent her from receiving anymore unwanted guests, and would also allow those who feel uncomfortable with Christian practices to find alternative accommodation.

    Reply
  • 2. bedandbreakfastworldblog  |  June 14, 2010 at 9:04 am

    A similar article from Canada’s National Post – a B&B in British Columbia choose to shut down their business after turning away a gay couple http://www.nationalpost.com/news/couple+shut+down+after+rights+complaint/3133693/story.html

    Reply

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