If you have been paying attention to the news recently, you will most certainly have heard about the resolution to the controversial case surrounding gay couple Michael Black and John Morgan who were turned away from a Christian couple’s bed and breakfast in Cookham in 2010 because the two men’s sexual orientation went against the Wilkinson’s religious beliefs.
Black and Morgan decided to take Susanne and Mike Wilkinson to court and now, two years later, have won their case which orders the Wilkinsons to pay £3,600 in damages to the couple. However, the Wilkinsons are considering to appeal against the case, but have just two weeks to make a final decision.
We managed to get an interview with Michael Black who talked to us about how the original incident unfolded, their feelings throughout the entire case up until now, how they hope the result will affect others in the same situation and what they think of the service that Gay Homestays provides for gay travellers.
GH: When you travel, do you normally stay in gay accommodation or not or do you not usually have a preference?
MB: It’s a mixture really. We do have a preference for gay-owned places but we have stayed in those that aren’t before, although we’d never come across this particular problem before.
GH: What initially drove you to decide to book at the Wilkinson’s B&B?
MB: We were visiting friends who live in that area (Cookham, Berkshire) and it was the nearest accommodation we could find that was in our price range, so location was the main factor, but also price as well.
GH: How did you feel in regards to your treatment by the Wilkinsons and what were the sequence of events that led to the case being taken to court?
MB: We were really shocked by their attitude, and we honestly felt like we were treated as if we were second class citizens, it was very shocking and hurtful. When we arrived at the place and got out of the car, Susanne was standing at the front and soon as she saw that we were two men, we noticed her body language change. When we entered the B&B, she first of all confirmed that we had booked one double room for the both of us – to which we replied yes – and she immediately told us she could not allow us to stay due to her religious beliefs. We thought it might be illegal but we were not sure so we asked for our deposit back – which she gave – and decided, since we had no choice, to drive all the way back home that night instead.
Although we knew it was illegal for hotels to discriminate against anyone based upon race, religion, sexual orientation or anything else, we were unsure as to whether this law also applied to B&Bs. We first of all contacted local papers to try and get something put in them about the B&B and why we would not recommend it to anyone, which was soon noticed by the local BBC news and eventually the national media who took an interest in the story; we never expected it to become so big, so the national coverage was accidental really. We soon got in contact with Liberty, who were very helpful and when we were made aware that B&Bs that discriminate are breaking the law, we decided to take the case to court to be resolved.
GH: What are your feelings now after winning the case and do you think this will affects other B&B owners’ attitudes in the future as to who they accommodate?
MB: We are obviously delighted that we won the case, although we realise this may not be the end if the Wilkinsons decide to appeal, which reminds us of a similar case that happened in Cornwall with a gay couple who were turned away by a Christian couple who own a hotel; although they won the case initially, the owners have taken the case to the Supreme Court, so who knows what the outcome could be now. However, we hope this case will make other B&B and hotel owners aware that discriminating against anyone, no matter what their own personal or religious beliefs are, is illegal. We also hope anyone looking for accommodation in the future will make sure they are more knowledgable of the places they look at before booking or going anywhere.
GH: What were your thoughts when you heard about the things BNP leader Nick Griffin had tweeted?
MB: At the time of this particular incident we were actually on Radio Cambridgeshire doing an interview and the news editor told us about it, which made us very worried about what could happen. We were horrified that he had tweeted such things and especially posted our address online, but thankfully Huntingdon police, our local force, and Liberty were very helpful to us again in ensuring our safety and privacy. That same night (Thursday) we did not return home as we were due to stay at a hotel in London, but when we heard on Friday that no-one had come to our house and that nothing had happened, we felt a lot more relaxed about the situation.
GH: We are passionate about providing safe, affordable and friendly accommodation for gay travellers. You have had a look at our website, so what do you think about it and what we are trying to do?
MB: We definitely think it is a good idea and important that LGBT people have the option of staying in gay-owned or at least gay-friendly places of all sorts, but we also believe gay people should not have to feel that they should have to only stay in gay accommodation and they should be able to stay anywhere they want without discrimination.
We’d like to thank Michael Black for his time and please let us know what your thoughts and opinions are on this whole case!