U.K. B&B Ordered to Pay Gay Couple More Than $5K
A judge recently ordered the professedly Christian owner of bed and breakfast in Southeast England to pay a gay couple more than $5,000 because she refused to give them a room, the (U.K.) Telegraph reports.
In 2010, the owner of the Swiss B&B in the English country of Berkshire Susanne Wilkinson, denied Michael Black, 64, and his partner John Morgan, 59, a room because it was "against her convictions" to allow two men to share a room, EDGE reported.
Wikinson told the judge it was common for her to deny rooms to unmarried heterosexual couples because of her Christian beliefs as well. But when she refused to give the men a room she faced the charge of having violated Britain’s Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"When we got out of the car," Black later recounted, "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."
When the couple told Wilkinson she would be breaking the anti-discrimination law, the businesswoman said the B&B was private property.
"She said she was sorry and she was polite in a cold way and she was not abusive, so we asked our money back and she gave it to us," Black said.
"They gave me no prior warning and I couldn’t offer them another room as I was fully booked," Wilkinson told the media. "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."
Black added that he and Morgan were "shocked, and of course angry" that they were turned away. The couple felt they were "treated like lepers." He said neither of them encountered homophobia since coming out in the ’70s.
When the case went to court, Wilkinson, along with her husband Mike, told the judge they were following their Christian beliefs and that they could not give the couple a room because they believed homosexuality is a sin.
"As a Christian, I have tried to live my life and carry out my work in accordance with my deeply held Christian beliefs," she told the court. "To permit same sex couples to share a double room in my home would be an act against my core religious beliefs and conscience."
The judge found that she "chose to operate a commercial business for financial purposes" and that the B&B "does not prevent her from holding her religious beliefs."
"My conclusion is that the application of the regulations to the defendant bed and breakfast establishment and the finding that the refusal of the double room constituted direct discrimination, are not in breach of her (Mrs. Wilkinson) Article 9 Rights," Recorder Clare Moulder said.
Wilkinson and her husband were then ordered to pay the Black and Morgan £3,600 ($5,754 US dollars).
"Naturally, my husband and I are disappointed to have lost the case and to have been ordered to pay £3,600 in damages for injury to feelings," she said. "We have the option to appeal and we will give that serious consideration. We believe a person should be free to act upon their sincere beliefs about marriage under their own roof without living in fear of the law. Equality laws have gone too far when they start to intrude into a family home."
"I am a Christian, not just on a Sunday in church, but in every area of my life - as Jesus expects from his followers," Wilkinson added.
This isn’t the first time a B&B owner has been cited for turning away a gay couple. In July, EDGE reported that the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal in Western Canada ruled that Les and Susan Molnar, the owners of Riverbend B&B, illegally discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to give them a room in 2009.
Additionally, a British appeals court ruled in February that Peter and Hazelmary Bull, owners of the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Cornwall, England, had to pay Steve Preddy and his partner Martyn Hall nearly $5,700 for refusing to give them a room because they are gay, EDGE reported.
Predictably, the Christian Right in this country is using this as the latest example of the "persecution" that Christians will face if the United States overturns the Defense of Marriage Act.
"Christians need to stand for more than the truth," wrote a commenter on Lifesite News. "We need to stand for our rights and not back down. Ban together for justice and the right to practice our religion without government intereference. If we do not take a stand they will destroy us."
"Why is it that Christians have to be ’tolerant’ of everyone else’s feelings and beliefs, but no one has to be tolerant of the Christian’s beliefs?" asked another.