U.K. Gay Couple Turned Away from B&B
There was no room at the inn for a British gay couple once the owner of a guest house saw that she had booked a room with a double bed to a same-sex couple.
Susanne Wilkinson, owner of the Swiss B&B, reportedly told Michael Black and his partner John Morgan that it was "against her convictions" to allow the men to share a room and refused them accommodations--even though Britain’s anti-discrimination laws forbid denial of goods and services based on sexual orientation.
The men, residents of Cambridgeshire, arrived at the B&B, located in Cookham, on March 19, only to be turned away, reported U.K. newspaper The Daily Express on March 22. Black told the media that, "when we got out of the car she was immediately distant and unfriendly and then she said, ’It’s a double room,’ and we said, ’Yes.’ She said, ’It’s a large double bed in a double room,’ and we said, ’Yes,’ and then she said it was against her convictions to let us stay."
The men protested being turned away and cited the anti-discrimination law, the article said. Wilkinson responded that the house was private property. "She said she was sorry and she was polite in a cold way and she was not abusive," said Black, "so we asked our money back and she gave it to us."
"They gave me no prior warning and I couldn’t offer them another room as I was fully booked," Wilkinson told the press. "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."
"We were very shocked, and of course angry, that it happened. Neither of us has ever experienced homophobia before and I have been out since 1974," Black said. "We felt we were treated like lepers and not fit to be under the same roof as her." As for Wilkinson’s statement that she should have had "prior warning" that the men were a same-sex couple, Black said, "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.
"There is no reason why we had to make it clear we were two men in this day and age," added Black. "We have stayed in plenty of guest houses in Britain and abroad and have never had a problem."
"In open-and-shut cases of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation the law’s quite clear," said Derek Munn, the director of public affairs for GLBT advocacy group Stonewall. "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."
"We are Christians and we believe our rights don’t have to be subordinated," said Wilkinson’s husband, Francis, reported U.K. newspaper The Guardian on March 21. "We have religious freedom and we are not judging that, but we are not prepared to have that sort of activity under our roof." Mr. Wilkinson said that he and his wife had "already been inundated with abusive calls and emails. It is really sad that people act like that."
Under Britain’s Equality Act of 2006, goods and services may not be denied on the basis of age, race, religion, or sexual orientation.