Sunday, 4 April 2010

Chris Grayling And The Bed And Breakfast

Every year, almost without fail, we have a news story about a gay couple being refused service in a bed and breakfast. Hey, we've even had a "Hotel refuses soldier" story before, because their policy was not to accept members of the military.

There's a problem in these stories for liberals. That problem is a conflict of individual rights. On the one hand I believe no one should be allowed to refuse you service just because of "what" you are. On the other there's the right to refuse to serve someone, for whatever reason, that a business owner should, in theory, be allowed.

So when Chris Grayling, Tory Shadow Home Secretary says:

"I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences. I personally always took the view that... if you look at the case of 'Should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from their hotel?'

"I took the view that if it's a question of somebody who's doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn't come into their own home.
"If they are running a hotel on the High Street, I really don't think that it is right in this day and age that a gay couple should walk into a hotel and be turned away because they are a gay couple, and I think that is where the dividing line comes."
I find it hard to not, at the very least, see where he is coming from. But here's the problem... one right must be lesser than the other. We cannot have two rights left in conflict as that is absurd. So which is the one that must, sadly, be relegated?

If we look at the world where a business owner must serve everyone, except in cases of legal age requirements and bad behaviour, this does not affect their business detrimentally. It does not stop them making money. It does not impede on their rights ultimately because they can refuse to operate that business if their morality stops them from serving certain people (with rights, sometimes there come responsibilities).

But if we look at allowing them to pick and choose what types of people they serve, we can see a slippery slope. Would it be okay for a B&B owner to turn away a couple in which one person was black and the other white? Would it be okay for a gay B&B owner to turn away a Christian? Did you think it was okay for the hotel to turn away someone just because they were a soldier (who wasn't even in uniform, might I add!)?

By allowing that right we open up a world of closed businesses in which we shall have confusion, upset and bigotry allowed to spread through our land once more. If it is not right for someone to be allowed to refuse someone service because they are black, then it's not right for them to do so to a gay person, or a Christian, or even to clowns.

Ultimately Chris Grayling's comments seem to come not from a liberal, progressive place but from a small-minded old fashioned view of people being allowed to take out their bigotry in a very physical way upon others. No one is saying personal beliefs (homophobia masquerading as a misconceived form of Christianity) can be banned. But what we are saying is if you wish to be homophobic, you'll need to do so in a private place and not in your working life, and well away from anyone who might be hurt by it.

This is not just a misjudged comment. It also opens up some light on the strange, backward attitudes that we all know continue to lurk in some Tory MPs minds. As I've said before, 25% of the current set of Tory MPs were around in the 80s and voted FOR Section 28, that clearly shows that the Tory party has a long way to go before it truly sheds it's infamous "nasty party" image. I wish they would just get around to it so we can just move on with politics, past all these silly 1950s attitudes they seem unwilling to give up.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

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