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Gay couple turned away from B&B in Cookham

21 March 10 22:30 GMT

A gay couple were turned away from a Berkshire guest house by the owner who said it was "against her convictions" for two men to share a bed.

Michael Black and John Morgan, from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, had booked a double room at the Swiss B&B, Terry's Lane, in Cookham, for Friday night.

But when they arrived owner Susanne Wilkinson refused to let them stay.

She admitted she did turn the couple away because it was against her policy to accommodate same sex couples.

The couple have now reported the matter to Thames Valley Police.

Under the Equality Act 2006 it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Ms Wilkinson told the BBC: "They gave me no prior warning and I couldn't offer them another room as I was fully booked.

"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."

Mr Black and Mr Morgan were in the village, near Maidenhead, to meet some friends for dinner and to see a local play.

Mr Black told the BBC: "We're two respectable middle-aged men - John is leader of the Lib Dem group on Huntingdon Town Council.

Owner apologised

"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.

"Mrs Wilkinson saw us both before we got out of the car and immediately acted in an unwelcoming, cold way, but my boyfriend and I were polite and friendly.

"She said if we'd told her in advance she would have told us not to come.

"She apologised for turning us away. I asked for a refund of the deposit, which she gave me without quibble.

"We stayed polite and, to be fair, she wasn't rude or abusive.

'Civil matter'

"All she said about her reasons for turning us away was that it went against her convictions for us to stay there.

"We've since told a large number of friends and acquaintances and the reaction has consistently been amazement that this should have happened.

"I've reported the matter to Thames Valley Police who have confirmed that they are following it up."

Thames Valley Police said the call had been logged as a homophobic incident.

A spokeswoman said: "As the people live outside of the force area, we have asked Cambridgeshire Constabulary to speak to the individuals concerned."

A spokesman for Stonewall, which campaigns for equality and justice for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, said turning someone away on the grounds of 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."

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