Gay couple win Berkshire B&B refusal case

The couple say the legal battle probably isn't over

A gay couple who were turned away from a bed and breakfast were discriminated against, it has been ruled.

Michael Black and John Morgan were refused a double room at Swiss Bed and Breakfast in Berkshire by its owner.

The pair from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, were awarded £1,800 each at Reading County Court for "injury to feelings".

Cambridgeshire Police said it was looking into complaints following comments made on Twitter by BNP leader Nick Griffin about the couple.

'Rights of all'

The MEP is alleged to have asked for the couple's address and called for a demonstration to be held outside their home.

One of the complained about tweets read: "We'll hold demo for rights of all home owners, gays included, to rent or not rent rooms to whomsoever they wish."

Mr Griffin's Twitter account was subsequently suspended.

A police spokesman said: "We have received a number of calls in relations to the tweets and are looking into the complaints we have received.

"Officers will also visit the men mentioned in the tweets as part of our inquiries."

Mr Black, 64, and Mr Morgan, 59, booked a double room at the Swiss Bed and Breakfast in Berkshire via email.

When they arrived in March 2010, owner Susanne Wilkinson would not let them stay in a room with a double bed.

Recorder Claire Moulder said that by refusing the couple access to a double room, Mrs Wilkinson had "treated them less favourably than she would treat unmarried heterosexual couples in the same circumstances".

It comes as a similar case in Cornwall awaits a Supreme Court hearing.

'Like a triumph'

Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the Christian owners of a guesthouse in Marazion who also turned away a gay couple have won permission to appeal against their ruling.

In the latest case, the judge accepted Mrs Wilkinson was genuine about her Christian beliefs and had also stopped unmarried heterosexual couples from sharing a double bed.

Reacting to the ruling, Mrs Wilkinson said: "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.

"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."

The Christian Institute had backed Mrs Wilkinson's case.

Mrs Wilkinson was granted permission to appeal against the ruling and said she would give it "serious consideration".

Mr Black said the ruling felt "like a triumph".

He said: "It's taken two and a half years to get this far so to get the judgement and be vindicated in it is a great feeling."

'Simply unacceptable'

He said the only drawback was that Mrs Wilkinson had leave to appeal and, because the case involving the Cornwall guesthouse was due to go to the Supreme Court in late 2013 or early 2014, their own case was unlikely to be heard until after that.

When asked about Mrs Wilkinson's religious beliefs, Mr Black said he was not trying to fight anyone's beliefs. He said: "Running a B&B is not a religion.

"If you are running a B&B you have to abide by the law so either change your job or carry on running a B&B and let gay couples stay."

When asked if the couple were willing to take the case as far as the European Court of Human Rights, Mr Morgan said: "If it is still quite common for this sort of discrimination to take place then I think it needs to be taken all the way to be stopped."

James Welch, from civil rights group Liberty which took up the men's case, said: "It is simply unacceptable for people running a business to refuse to provide a service because of someone's sexual orientation."

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