The Tory MP who backed the rights of Christian B&B owners to refuse to give a gay couple a double bed has been hounded by calls for him to step down.
Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary and MP for Epsom and Ewell, was recorded secretly by a journalist at a meeting of the Centre for Policy Studies. He said that although he disagreed with discrimination against homosexuals, the rights of B&B owners to accept people into their home should be protected.
Mr Grayling was referring to the case of Berkshire-based Susanne and Francis Wilkinson, who were inundated with phone calls and e-mails after they refused accommodation to a male homosexual couple in March.
They claimed that they would have offered the couple, one of whom is a Liberal Democrat councillor, a room with twin beds, but they had full bookings that weekend. They explained that their religious beliefs prevented them from offering a shared bed to the homosexual couple.
Chris Grayling said that people should ‘have their own consciences’ and that, unlike a hotel, B&B owners should be allowed to say who can come into their own homes.
Despite apologising for any offence he may have caused (although not recanting his remarks) gay lobbyists and other party politicians have called for him to resign or for the Conservative Party to sack him. Michael Black, one half of the gay couple, demanded that ‘David Cameron would sack him as shadow home secretary and make it clear the sort of attitude that religious belief puts people above the law is not acceptable in the Conservative party’.
Grayling has been pilloried in the media, with Sky News giving him the moniker ‘Chris Gayling’, while the B&B owners at the centre of the storm have been sent more than 900 abusive letters.
According to Christian Concern for Our Nation (CCFON), the gay couple reported the Wilkinsons to the police. A statement from the Thames Valley Police said: ‘The incident may be a breach of the Equalities Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which outlaws discrimination by businesses against gay, lesbian and bi-sexual people. It is not a criminal offence, so police will not be carrying out a criminal investigation’.
A spokesperson for the Christian Legal Centre said: ‘We have spoken to Mr and Mrs Wilkinson and will do all that we can to assist them if these two men pursue a case against them. It is wrong that they should be intimidated in this way. They should be free to live and act out their faith’.