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Judge rules against Christian B&B owner

19 October 2012

PA

Nick Griffin: Discrimination is a "fundamental human right"

Nick Griffin: Discrimination is a "fundamental human right"

A CHRISTIAN B&B-business owner who refused a gay couple access to a double room breached equality legislation and must pay £3600 in damages, a judge has ruled.

In a judgment delivered at Slough County Court yesterday, the judge said that Susanne Wilkinson had discriminated against Michael Black and John Morgan by treating them less favourably than she would treat others (News, 26 March 2010, 21 September). A homosexual couple could never be married, and she had treated them less favourably than she would treat unmarried heterosexual couples in the same circumstances. The discrimination was on the grounds of the couple's sexual orientation.

The issue before the court was, the judge said, "the proper balance to be struck between religious beliefs and. . . [the] right to freedom from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation". It was subsequently determined that the application of the equality legislation to Mrs Wilkinson's business was not in breach of her rights, as set out in the Human Rights Act, to respect for private and family life and to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The limitation imposed on these rights was "necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others and . . . proportionate in its means and effect".

Mr Morgan said that Mrs Wilkinson was "polite, courteous, and firm that we were not staying" when he and Mr Black, who are not in a civil partnership, arrived at the B&B in Cookham, Berkshire in March 2010, after booking a double room. In evidence to the court, Mrs Wilkinson said: "Because I am a Christian, I believe that monogamous heterosexual marriage is the form of partnership uniquely intended for sexual relations between persons and that homosexual sexual relations (as opposed to homosexual orientation) and heterosexual sexual relations outside marriage are wrong. . . since I started the business, I have sought to restrict the sharing of the double rooms to heterosexual, preferably married, couples." Although she had turned several unmarried couples away, she admitted that she had allowed some to stay in the double room, as it was "impossible to know" whether a heterosexual couple was married.

The judge acknowledged that Mrs Wilkinson "may have to withdraw from this business [the B&B]" but argued that "It seems to me that the defendant has a choice whether or not to operate this particular business."

The judge cited the case of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who last year were found to have discriminated against a same-sex couple by refusing to provide them with a double-bedded room ( News, 21 January 2011). This case is the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court

Mrs Wilkinson said that she would give the option to appeal "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."

She had suffered "over two years of vile abuse and threats" and found the judgment "a strange justice in a society that aspires to be increasingly tolerant".

Today, police in Cambridgeshire said that they were investigating complaints after Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, posted the address of Mr Morgan and Mr Black online. Mr Griffin wrote on his Twitter account that: "A British Justice team will come up to Huntington & give you a . . . bit of drama by way of reminding you that an English couple's home is their castle. Say No to heterophobia!"

Mr Griffin told BBC 5 live today that he believed discrimination was a "fundamental human right. . . Those two gentlemen placed themselves in the public eye and they asked for it when they used and abused the legal system to persecute an innocent Christian couple."

Mrs Wilkinson issued a statement today expressing "sympathy" with Mr Black and Mr Morgan. The statement continued: "We know how it feels to have your address publicised and to receive constant threats, unpleasant statements and misunderstanding. Our Christian faith centres on the amazing and undeserved love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all mankind. Although Michael and John have chosen to take us to court we bear them no malice. On the contrary we pray for them and for their protection."

Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute, which funded Mrs Wilkinson's defence, described Mr Griffin's actions as "despicable and nasty". 

 

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