Gay couple sues bed and breakfast owner for discrimination

Two British men, both in their 60s, claim they were turned away when asked to be shown to a room with a double bed

Gay couple sues bed and breakfast owner for discrimination
18 September 2012

A gay British couple has sued the owner of a bed and breakfast after she refused to let them stay because of her religious beliefs.

Michael Black, 64, and John Morgan, 69, sought damages from the Christian hotel owner Susanne Wilkinson at Reading County Court yesterday (17 September).

The couple, who booked by email and paid a deposit, were turned away by the owner when they arrived at the Swiss Bed and Breakfast in Cookham, Berkshire in March 2010.

Despite protestations from Black it was unlawful discrimination, the owner refused to allow the couple to stay as it was ‘against her convictions.’

Lawyers from human rights organization Liberty have taken up the case.

James Welch, legal director of Liberty, said: ‘A business with a ‘no gays policy’ is as bad as one that says ‘no blacks; no Irish’.

‘Liberty defends the rights of religious groups to manifest their beliefs, even when we disagree with them, but not to discriminate in the provision of goods and services.’

Welch is arguing under the Equality Act, it is unlawful for service providers to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.

Lawyers for Wilkinson argued a person offering bed and breakfast in their own home was entitled to refuse to allow people who were not married or in a civil partnership to share a double bed.

They say as the two men are not in a civil partnership, there was no direct or indirect discrimination.

If Morgan and Black win the case, which will give them about £3,600 ($5,843, €4,467) each in damages, they have promised they will give the money to charity.

Judge Claire Moulder reserved judgment at Reading County Court for one to two weeks.

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