On a Friday evening back in March 2010 Swiss B&B owner Susanne Wilkinson turned away a gay couple as it was “against her convictions” for two men to share a bed.
Michael Black and John Morgan reported the matter to Thames Valley Police.
At the time Mrs Wilkinson argued that as the property was a guest house as well as a private residence – as opposed to a hotel – she had every right to turn the couple away.
The human rights organisation Liberty acting on behalf of the couple argued that as the B&B provided services to the public, it was unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of that person’s sexual orientation.
A judge today has agreed with Liberty and ruled against Mrs Wilkinson ordering her to pay £3600 damages on the grounds of hurt feelings in accordance with equality laws.
The Christian Institute defended Mrs Wilkinson and today their spokesman Mike Judge is still arguing the private residence angle:
Yes, Mrs Wilkinson’s B&B is a business, but it’s also a family home. The law should be more flexible in allowing people to live according to their own values under their own roof.
A couple of points are worth noting.
I remember at the time folk raising the question of whether Mrs Wilkinson also refused unmarried heterosexual couples. Well according to Christian Today:
The judge accepted the sincerity of her Christian beliefs and that she had also refused to allow unmarried heterosexual couples from sharing a double bed.
It’s also worth noting that Mrs Wilkinson claims to have been besieged with abuse:
[Mrs Wilkinson] asked for police protection after the story was first covered by the media, due to a string of death threats. ‘We had thousands of pieces of hate mail and very abusive phone calls. I had a hand-delivered letter put through the door saying that my house would be burned down,’ she recalled.
‘I had to call the police. They were very concerned and patrolled the lane we live on for five months and checked on us regularly.’
The judge has given Mrs Wilkinson leave to appeal and so we’ll see what happens.
In the meantime, I’m sure there will be legal analysis and implications etc posted online, and if I see anything interesting I’ll update here with links.