Couple ‘turned away from B&B’

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A couple have claimed they were turned away from a bed & breakfast because the owner said it was “against her convictions” to allow them to share a bed.

Michael Black, 62, and John Morgan, 56, from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, have reported the owner of the Swiss B&B in Cookham to police for discriminating against them.

The couple arrived at the guest house near Maidenhead, Berkshire, on Friday and were met outside by the owner Susanne Wilkinson.

“This was the first time either of us had experienced homophobia at first hand, despite being aged 56 and 62, we were shocked and embarrassed.

“She could see through the windscreen that we were two men,” said Mr Black. “And when we got out of the car she was immediately distant and unfriendly and then she said, ‘it’s a double room’, and we said ‘yes’. “She said, ‘it’s a large double bed in a double room’ and we said, ‘yes’, and then she said it was against her convictions to let us stay.

“We said it was illegal to discriminate against people who stay in hotels because that’s all we knew at the time and she said it was her private home and it was against her convictions. She said she was sorry and she was polite in a cold way and she was not abusive, so we asked our money back and she gave it to us.”

Mr Black said the couple were “very angry” but then met friends nearby and went to the theatre but decided to drive the 80 miles back to their home. Mr Black said the couple had been interviewed by Cambridgeshire police after they first complained to Thames Valley Police online. He said they had been advised the offence would be treated as a civil matter and they should take Mrs Wilkinson to county court. But Mr Black said he understood that under the Equality Act 2006 it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation, even in a guest house.

Mrs Wilkinson told BBC News she had turned the men away.

“They gave me no prior warning and I couldn’t offer them another room as I was fully booked, she said. “I don’t see why I should change my mind and my beliefs I’ve held for years just because the government should force it on me. I am not a hotel, I am a guest house and this is a private house.”

A spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police said: “We are aware of the incident and were contacted yesterday. The call has been logged as a homophobic incident. As the people live outside of the force area, we have asked Cambridgeshire Constabulary to speak to the individuals concerned.”

A spokesman for Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, said turning a couple away because of their sexual orientation was illegal. Derek Munn, director of public affairs, said: “Stonewall was delighted when the law changed in 2007 so that lesbian and gay couples could go on their holidays like anyone else. In open-and-shut cases of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation the law’s quite clear – it’s illegal for businesses to turn away gay customers or discriminate against them when providing goods or services, and this can’t be overridden by personal prejudice.”