Gay rights row engulfs Tories after Grayling gaffe

Shadow minister criticised for defending right of B&Bs to refuse same-sex couples

There are growing demands for the Conservative leader David Cameron to clarify his party's stance on gay rights, after the shadow Home Secretary said that Christian bed and breakfast owners should be allowed to refuse accommodation to gay couples.

Chris Grayling provoked astonishment and anger yesterday after he was secretly recorded saying that B&B owners should be able to exclude gay guests. His comments contradict the party line on gay rights, but there was no reaction or public rebuke from Mr Cameron, despite requests.

Some decades ago, B&Bs could have signs outside their doors stating "No gays, no blacks, no Irish", recalls Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the Stonewall gay rights group. However legislation and changing attitudes have have made it much harder for landlords to discriminate openly. It has been illegal since April 2007 for commercial accommodation providers to exclude someone based on their sexual orientation.

But during a talk at a centre-right think tank, Mr Grayling told the audience he believed that although hotels should not be allowed to discriminate, different rules should govern bed and breakfasts. "I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences," he said. "If you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a 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." His comments were jumped on by gay rights activists and political opponents, who accused the Conservatives of saying one thing about gay rights in public and another in private. The shadow Home Secretary's comments are embarrassing for Mr Cameron, who has tried to woo the gay vote by portraying the Conservatives as a party that now fully supports equality.

The Tories are likely, for example, to have almost 20 gay MPs after polling day. Mr Grayling may also find trouble closer to home – just last Wednesday his colleague Dominic Grieve, the shadow Justice Secretary, said that B&Bs should not be able to discriminate, The Independent has learnt. "If you decide you are going to turn your home into a bed and breakfast, you are providing a public service and you have to accept that you cannot discriminate over who stays there," Mr Grieve said.

"If you can't accept that then you are in the wrong business. It is no different from a Muslim taxi driver refusing to take a blind person because they think the dog is dirty: the law states you must take the blind person. You have no recourse to argue."

Michael Black, a 62-year-old, self-employed exams consultant, who was turned away from the Swiss B&B in Cookham, Berkshire last month after the owner said she wouldn't accommodate gay couples, called for Mr Grayling to be sacked.

"His comments give the green light to anyone who wants to discriminate because of their religious beliefs," Mr Black said. "I'm a vegetarian for ethical reasons. If I went to go work in an abattoir and refused to kill animals, I could hardly be expected to keep my job and take my employers to a tribunal if I got sacked." And Mr Summerskill at Stonewall, which has openly welcomed the Conservatives' shift towards full gay equality, said: "There are lots of gay people out there who are thinking about voting Conservative – many for the first time in their lives," he said. "They will now be interrogating these issues much more thoroughly."

Some Christian groups welcomed Mr Grayling's comments. "This is a statement of common sense," said Andrea Williams, the director of the Christian Legal Centre. "It is vital in a diverse and free society that we truly tolerate one another's views."

Mr Graying is expected to signal a Tory election campaign shift to "in your face" policing to "stop, harass and challenge" troublemakers in a crack down on anti-social behaviour.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power