[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2006, 13:48 GMT
Gays? Not in my guest house
Adrian Watston
Adrian Watson is conscious of his family
A support group for gay men has accused an Ulster Unionist guest house owner of discriminating against same sex couples.

Antrim councillor Adrian Watson said he would feel "uncomfortable" about having gay couples in his bed and breakfast.

The father of three said the business was based in the family home, and his wife, a Christian, could be upset.

But David McCartney of the Rainbow Project said: "Discrimination is not a Christian act."

The comments come against a backdrop of government plans for a new equality law for gays and lesbians, which would prevent discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain plans to implement the Equality Act, Sexual Orientation Regulation on 1 January .

But speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan show, Mr Watson said although he believed in "total tolerance to the gay community" he was not operating a five star hotel.

"This is a bed and breakfast in a family home with three young children. Common sense has to prevail," he said.

"There is no difficulty with members of the gay community phoning up and booking a room.

"The difficulty would arise because of the logistics of the bed and breakfast - if it was a same sex couple - and because my wife has strong Christian views she felt it was difficult to facilitate that.

If you are prepared to refuse someone on the basis that they are gay, that is discrimination.
David McCartney
Rainbow Project

"It is difficult because my 14-year-old daughter helps out immensely. And the obvious question: 'Why are two men, or why are two women in a double room?'"

Ken Wilkinson of the Progressive Unionist Party in Antrim told Mr Watson: "You are an embarrassment as the deputy mayor".

Speaking on the same show, he added: "There was 40 of us went to the Somme and each of those were paired off into rooms. Is he trying to say that we are all gay?"

However, Mr Watson added that he felt what people did in their private lives was "entirely their own business and I have no difficulty with that".

"If two gentlemen come and two ladies come and they say they want a double room, it is obvious to assume they are a same sex couple," he said.

Gay Pride march in Belfast
The assembly debated equality for gays and lesbians

Mr McCartney of Rainbow Project said: "If you are prepared to refuse someone on the basis that they are gay, that is discrimination.

"You can't dress up religious principles as a cloak for discrimination.

"Anyway, no gay couples would want to go and spend their hard earned money somewhere they were not welcome. I don't really see Antrim as a major tourist destination for gay couples."

On Monday, a Northern Ireland Assembly motion condemning government plans to introduce equality legislation for gays, lesbians and bisexuals fell after a tied vote.

After a two-hour debate at Stormont, 39 assembly members voted in favour of a DUP motion and 39 against.

The party claimed the new legislation could place Christian-run businesses on the "wrong side of the law".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific