Monthly Archives: October 2012

Exclusive Interview: Michael Black (gay couple and the B&B refusal case)

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.

Michael Black (L) and John Morgan (R).

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.

Susanne and Mike Wilkinson, the Christian owners of a B&B in Cookham.

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.

BNP leader Nick Griffin caused more controversy over Twitter regarding the incident.

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!

Our top ten “coming out” songs

Coming out as an LGBT person to anyone, whether it be family, friends, classmates or colleagues, is not always easy. And for some it’s not that hard. However, nearly all LGBT people must take this turning point in their lives and is usually one of their biggest life-defining moments, but it is different for everyone. National Coming Out Day takes place on 11th October and “is an internationally observed civil awareness day celebrating individuals who publicly identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and to help support those who have not yet come out or are wanting to. To celebrate this important day, we have compiled together a list of top ten songs which were written about or can be related to “coming out” or coming to terms with your sexual identity and being proud of who you are:

10) “Aftermath” by Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert was the first major male artist in the US and much of the world who was already openly gay before he began his music career and some of his songs do touch on the topic of being gay. “Aftermath” may not specifically focus on LGBT issues but is a self-empowerment song about self-esteem, with which anyone can relate to.

9) “Freedom” by Wham!

Although “Freedom” is actually a song about two lovers who can’t be together and need time apart, it could also be related to being free and able to enjoy your life without any qualms. And the fact it is sung by one of the world’s most famous gay artists, George Michael, helps earn its title as a good coming out anthem.

8) “Proud” by Heather Small

The title of this song sums everything up perfectly. Heather Small sings about standing up and being proud of yourself no matter what you are or do.

7) “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross

A very obvious choice perhaps, but the lyrics to this song are most definitely relatable to coming out. It’s happy, fun and camp and all about being confident enough to come out and tell the world something you have to say, regardless of what it is.

6) “Glad To Be Gay” by Tom Robinson Band

Released back in 1978, this song was a pioneer in LGBT rights in the music industry and has since been labelled as Britain’s “national gay anthem”. Lead singer Tom Robinson was one of Britain’s first openly gay/bisexual musicians and the song openly addresses the movement of LGBT people and the discrimination they still faced in the country even after homosexuality had been decriminalized since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.

5) “Take Your Mama” by Scissor Sisters

“Take Your Mama” by Scissor Sisters is actually the only song on this list that is directly about coming out. Its lyrics talk about a young gay man (Jake Shears, the lead singer) who is raised in a strict society and family who struggles with the big step of coming out to his mum.

4) “I Am What I Am” by Gloria Gaynor

Gloria Gaynor (coincidental name?) seems to be a queen when it comes to gay anthems; we all know her for singing “I Will Survive”, a well-known one, but she also released a version of “I Am What I Am”, a song taken from the musical La Cage aus Folles. The song was also written by Jerry Herman, who was an openly gay man.

3) “Same Thing In Reverse” by Boy George

Taken from his 2002 album – the aptly titled “U Can Never B2 Straight” – this song by gay icon Boy George talks about being proud of your sexuality, particularly in public, and says that a man loving another man is simply as the song suggests “the same thing in reverse” as a heterosexual relationship and shouldn’t be treated any differently.

2) “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper, who has always been a big gay icon and prominent gay rights activist, dedicated “True Colors” to her lesbian sister. The song switches the coming out issue round to the point the view of the person whose family member or friend is the one coming out and about still loving and accepting them for who they are.

1) “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera

Arguably Christina Aguilera’s biggest hit single, “Beautiful” was written by openly lesbian singer-songwriter Linda Perry, but is not a song about being gay specifically, so is universal and relatable to anyone. The message is simple and clear and vocals are tinged with raw emotion about getting over any criticisms. The video was even more iconic, featuring two LGBT scenes – two gay men kissing (a first for a music video) and a drag queen, and both the song and the video have won several awards and topped various polls for its pro-LGBT themes.

What do you think of this list? Is there any we missed out and would you agree with? Which are your favourites?