From specific bathrooms to specific island resorts, we’ve heard the arguments for why it’s perfectly fine to discriminate based on sexuality and gender identity when it appears to benefit our community. But in the wake of that British hotel owned by Christian couple Peter and Hazelmary Bull being fined $5,700 for refusing to let a gay couple spend the night, apparently the no-straights-allowed policy of some gay guesthouses is being questioned.
In Key West, a lesbians-only property cited the economy, not a desire to remove discriminatory policies, as the reason it’s opening up to heteros and their families. In Australia, a law that let gay bars actively discriminate against straight clientele saw that policy get pushed aside: Bouncers can no longer ask potential patrons about their sexuality; they can only remind them what “type” (read: gay) of establishment they’re about to walk into.
So what about gay hotels that actively bar non-gays? Should those rules change in the interest of equality? The Telegraph‘s Jonathan Wynne-Jones says it might not be up to them in the U.K.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is examining whether “gay-only” guesthouses breach new laws designed to prevent people being treated unfairly in the provision of goods or services. Last month, Christian owners of a guesthouse in Cornwall became the first to be found guilty of discrimination under equality laws after they refused to let a homosexual couple stay in a double room, in a legal action supported by the EHRC. Now, the watchdog says it must establish an “objective balance” by considering if gays-only accommodation also defies the legislation. Its lawyers are now investigating the issue and the EHRC says it has not ruled out taking legal action against “gay-only” hotels if they are deemed to be discriminating against heterosexuals. However, it admits that it has not received a single complaint from the public about such establishments.
The watchdog has also said it spent £15,320 of taxpayers’ money on projects to ensure hotels run by Christians are complying with the law and has written to warn them over their treatment of homosexuals. Hoteliers who run same-sex guesthouses fear they could be put out of business if they are forced to open their doors to heterosexual couples as it will make their core market feel more self-conscious.
How do local gay business owners feel about it?
John Bellamy, 55, who runs a homosexual hotel in Bournemouth for men only, said that the new legislation could result in the closure of exclusively gay guesthouses. While he said he welcomed the new equality laws for tackling discrimination, he added that it had “come at a price”. “I knew we’d get this as the new legislation is a double-edged sword,” said Mr Bellamy, who runs Hamilton Hall, which advertises that “clothing is optional” at the hotel. “We’ve been campaigning for this law for years so that everyone is equal, but it could spell the end of gay-only resorts. Gay bars and clubs are closing because they can’t restrict themselves any more and the gay world is losing its culture.”
Mark Hurst, who runs a “gay-only” guesthouse in Blackpool has also expressed fears that he could lose his homosexual clientele if he is forced to accept heterosexual people. “Many of them would feel more self-conscious. Many of our guests like to just sit on the settee in the lounge and cuddle up to watch a film,” he said. “They can hold hands and have a little kiss and would behave in a way they may not if they were in a mixed crowd.”
Then again, any heteros who knew they were walking into a gay-oriented (rather than gay-only) hotel would almost certainly know that pairings of two men and two women (and sometimes more, ’cause that’s how we sometimes do) were going to be taking place on the property, whether during the house breakfast each morning or out by the pool.
As for clothing optional resorts? I wonder if they might have a natural out. Since it’s perfectly acceptable to segregate the sexes in matters of locker rooms, bathrooms, and saunas, might it also be okay to do so if your hotel welcomes guests to disrobe where they please?