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UPDATED: Gay couple win damages from B&B owners
CHRISTIAN owners of a bed and breakfast have been told to pay damages totalling £3,600 to a gay couple they turned away.
Mike Wilkinson and wife Susanne, who run Swiss B&B in Terry's Lane, Cookham have lost a civil court case after refusing a room to Michael Black and John Morgan.
Mr Black and Mr Morgan brought legal action after not being allowed to stay at the guest house in March 2010.
Mrs Wilkinson said it would have gone against her religious convictions.
The story hit the national headlines at the time and led to threats of violence and abuse directed at the Cookham couple.
The verdict, delivered yesterday by Reading County Court Recorder Claire Moulder, found Mrs Wilkinson had unlawfully discriminated against the couple.
But her ruling gives the hoteliers the chance to appeal.
James Welch, legal director of Liberty, which took up the case for Mr Black and Mr Morgan, said: "Liberty defends the rights of religious groups to manifest their beliefs, even when we disagree with them.
"But it is simply unacceptable for people running a business to refuse to provide a service because of someone’s sexual orientation.
"Hopefully this ruling signals the death knell of such ‘no gays’ policies - policies that would never be tolerated if they referred to a person’s race, gender or religion."
Mrs Wilkinson said: "Naturally, my husband and I are disappointed to have lost the case and to have been ordered to pay £3,600 in damages for injury to feelings. We have the option to appeal, and we will give that serious consideration.
"We believe a person should be free to act upon their sincere beliefs about marriage under their own roof without living in fear of the law.
"Equality laws have gone too far when they start to intrude into a family home.
"People’s beliefs about marriage are coming under increasing attack, and I am concerned about people’s freedom to speak and act upon these beliefs.
"I am a Christian, not just on a Sunday in church, but in every area of my life - as Jesus expects from his followers. "That’s all I was trying to do and I think it’s quite wrong to punish me for that, especially after enduring over two years of vile abuse and threats.
"We find this a strange justice in a society that aspires to be increasingly tolerant."
Mrs Wilkinson’s legal defence was paid for by The Christian Institute, a national charity that protects the civil liberty of Christians.