Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

"Exclusively gay?"

Gay hotels fear antigay law

Hoteliers chasing the pink tourist pound have joined criticism of a law outlawing driscrimination
(sic) against homosexuals.

The hotels, which cater for the thriving “exclusively gay” tourism market, say that they should be exempt from the Sexual Orientation Regulations as they will be forced to accept heterosexual guests. Some say that a ban on “gay only” advertising could put them out of business.

John Bellamy, who runs Hamilton Hall, said: “We are a unique venue and we only admit gay and bisexual men. Under this law, we would go out of business. This so-called antidiscrimination law is actually discriminatory as it discriminates against gays.”

Another hotelier, Mark Hurst, co-owner of the exclusively gay Guyz hotel in Blackpool, said that his gay clientele would feel uncomfortable mixing with straight customers.
From the Times. Feb 1st 2007. The Times did not permit comments for that article, but there are a few here.

Three years later, on Easter Saturday 2010, The Guardian and other newspapers tried to whip up a storm around Chris Grayling's remarks concerning what happened quite some time ago at a B&B somewhere in England. (Yes, somehow, it had to be in England - 'this sort of thing' would never happen in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.)

Mrs Rigby notes that the two linked articles generated, at the time of her first blog draft, 1423 and 377 comments respectively, but more about that in a moment.

Lots of bloggers have posted about this too, and Mrs R knows she's a bit late joining the party fray. If you haven't read what other people think it's probably a good idea - because they wrote when this was a 'hot' issue. Look at Iain Dale's blog first and then some others. Here is just a selection. Don't forget to also read the comments - it'll take quite a time but is worth it.
Boateng and Demetriou
Constantly Furious
Old Holborn
The Devil

We Rigbys talked about this quite a bit over the long weekend - the subject came up again and again, it didn't matter who we were with, and it's because of what one of the Juniors said we ended up sort of deciding that it's quite an appropriate weekend for it to happen really. It's also a 'hot' and emotive topic that some political activists won't let disappear, not in the run up to the election when somebody or other thinks they can gain the upper hand.

Is it all a storm in a teacup? No, on balance it probably isn't, and it may well end up being a defining moment when set alongside other things that hit both the mainstream media and the blogosphere at the same time - including the Greenpeace activist who wrote, about 'dissenters':
We know who you are.
We know where you live.
We know where you work.
And we be many, but you be few.
Seems a bit like a threat, and hints at what might happen if you don't go along with their way of thinking. And that, you see, is how a lot of people have felt about quite a few of the more recent 'minority' things that have got onto the statute books and led to successful criminal prosecutions – if you don't go along with 'this' way of thinking, and also prove you go along with 'this' way of thinking, then nasty things will happen to you and yours.

Nobody could ever argue that it's acceptable to look at somebody and say you won't employ them because of what they're wearing or the colour of their skin. We're all equal, the law says so.

Nobody could ever argue that it is either acceptable or reasonable, all other things being equal, to turn down a job applicant solely because they have a 'private' life that is different from all the other applicants. We're all equal, the law says so.

Nobody could ever reasonably argue that an individual's genetic make-up, over which they have no control, should ever be used to give one person more rights than another. We're all equal, the law says so.

But all these things actually happen – and making these distinctions is enshrined in British law - because of 'positive discrimination', which allows, encourages, and actively forces discrimination – and the law says we are not all equal.

These laws say that employers must give more rights, and more chances of promotion to a non-white British-born man than a white British-born man. The law says that a man who prefers to wear a dress, for whatever reason, shall have greater employment rights than a man who likes to wear trousers. The law says that girls and/or women must be able to join clubs that were originally, and exclusively, for boys and/or men - but they can keep their own clubs, to protect them in case the boys or men who'd like to join are perverts. The law says that those of African or Asian ancestry can have their own clubs, but white Europeans are not allowed to. The law says that if an individual says that they are not heterosexual, then they have more rights than those who keep quiet about their 'private life', whatever their sexual preference. There are many more instances, too many to mention here, but it must also be noted that the law also says that employers must keep careful records to prove compliance, or risk serious punishment.

You see, a lot of things that have happened have presumed that being part of a minority group is detrimental to employment – in terms of getting a job and various 'rights' afterwards. This was sometimes the case, but that sort of discrimination is, thankfully, very rare now.

All these 'rights' have spilled over into everyday issues, where an individual can actually be arrested for having the wrong sort of private conversation within earshot of an eavesdropper who takes offence on behalf of an individual, or group of individuals, who are nowhere to be seen. That 'sort of thing' reminded one of the Rigbys of Venetian letterboxes, and fear of denunciation followed by arrest and imprisonment.

So, why did one of the more thoughtful Junior Rigbys think Easter was an appropriate time for this matter to be aired? It was not because Easter celebrates the defining moment of Christianity, it was because Easter remembers how a man was put to death for being the leader of a group of people who were going against the establishment of the time.

Today some people look at 'that sort of thing' in bemusement, can't imagine it happening 'these days'. It's 'cool' to be anti-establishment, it's called freedom of expression, freedom of association, and so on and so on. Putting people in prison for doing something as normal-in-Britain as kissing their boy/girl friend out of doors would be mean. Executing people for not doing what the government, or the church, says would be old-fashioned, barbaric, and so on, and so on.

In 2010 A.D. – that's Anno Domini, 2010 years after Christ – Britain, parts of Europe, the Americas and Antipodes are busy dismantling the old religious social rules and values. These rules and values are being replaced with complex rules chosen by the state, and some believe these rules are more onerous, more difficult to abide by, than any code of conduct as basic as the Ten Commandments - and are subject to harsh punishments, often following trial by media.

It seems strange to talk about religion, because we're frequently told it's old hat, it's passée, but until very recently (in historic terms) religion provided the framework for the moral and social code of almost all countries and societies. Most adults in the west can recognise these Commandments, which are remarkably similar in Judaism, Christianity and Islam – because all these faiths acknowledge the words of Moses.

At their most basic level this moral, ethical and social, code is taken from the following - To have only one God, not worship idols or take the name of God in vain (blaspheme) and actively remember the holy days, honour/obey parents/seniors, not kill (except in battle or for punishment), not be adulterous, not steal, not tell lies to or about others, not covet another's spouse or property.

Of course, over the centuries, extra fripperies that suited the rulers of the time were added to those basic rules, which made things quite tough for some people and kept them firmly in their place.

In 2010 there are some countries that have not changed their moral codes and laws to bring them 'up to date' - not a bit, and some of them even retain the same ancient punishments. In these faith-based countries you fall foul of the law at your peril. Wrinkled Weasel has a picture in his blog sidebar that might act as a reminder of what some 'establishments' will do to those that break their strict moral code.

In the meantime, in Britain, there have been employment tribunals ruling that a person whose lifestyle revolves around environmental issues shall have his 'belief' given the same standing as an established religion. There has been a ruling that a young man, who claimed to be a Jedi, should be allowed to wear a hooded top that covered his face – in a place where headgear was prohibited for security reasons. He was even offered an official apology. There have been challenges regarding the carrying of weapons – for religious reasons - and so on, and so on.

All this means that Britain, and the west as a whole, seems to be getting a bit confused about what should be right and what should be wrong. Some adults even think it's reasonable, and fair, to expect an eleven year old to be able to help choose new teaching staff, and for sixteen year olds to be able to vote - but not be allowed to either leave full time education or do adult things such as joining the Army without parental consent, nor be sold alcohol until they reach the ripe old age of 25.

Over the Easter weekend various Rigbys decided that the situation has, almost, reached a tipping point because we are beginning to see the signs of unrest, especially when one vociferous group – with rights enshrined in law – comes up against another quieter group – also with rights enshrined in law - and where some apparent supporters of the former refuse to even attempt to try to negotiate a centre ground, whilst calling the other group rude names and threatening prosecution and persecution. They want to be seen as winning, and right, and others want to jump on the bandwagon and use it for political gain, to prove the others are the bad guys.

At some point the the myriad of laws need to be clarified, and perhaps some groups, and some individuals, might end up being effectively ruled 'not special enough' to continue to be more equal and benefit from positive discrimination - but it will take a test case, or test cases, before this can happen, because our laws no longer encourage, or allow, things to settle to a natural equilibrium.

Whether this will happen to a formal religion, to a 'minority' group, or an individual remains to be seen, but some of the wider Rigby 'clan' think this will happen soon - and they decided this because of the outpouring of public feeling, via the internet, over the issue raised by the politicised sting on Chris Grayling. A remarkable number of people supported the right to say, “No, not here, not in my home,” Some felt that this view was reinforced by others who had, over three years ago, acknowledged that they would be embarrassed to be around heterosexuals at bedtime.

Ultimately, surely, this means that if a B&B or hotel can be exclusively gay or lesbian, if a café or restaurant can be exclusively vegan, if an hotel can refuse to admit guests along with their dogs or children, if a butcher can be exclusively halal or kosher, then the opposite must also be possible, and should be equally legally permissible. If all of the former establishments can advertise their services without censure, then the opposite must also be allowed.

Sexuality, whether hetero or homo, is rarely a lifestyle choice, rarely going against the mainstream and rarely just to be anti-establishment. Something so intensely personal and private should never be used as either a political tool or a weapon.

Give and take, compromise and tolerance, are all two way streets - especially in matters intensely personal and relating to sexuality. People are comfortable with some things, not with others; can talk openly about some things, not others, and that's the way it's always been.

Before you blast Mrs Rigby and her wider family as being unreasonable, some of our dearest friends have only very recently plucked up the courage (their words) to fasten their relationship (their words) with a civil ceremony. This couple has never stayed overnight at Rigby Towers, not because they have never been invited but because they have declined, for the same reason given by the owners of Guyz Hotel - it is because they feel uncomfortable being around heterosexuals at bedtime, and that is also why we Rigbys have never stayed at our friends place either, it simply wouldn't be fair.

Give and take, compromise and tolerance.

Anything else is dictatorial and undemocratic, actively removes rights from one sector of the community and causes disharmony.


Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mrs Rigby said...

Sorry "Jeff", deleted your comment. We Rigbys don't do advertising.

Junican said...

I have commented elsewhere about the B & B situation, most notably on Tom Harris's blog a few days ago. He was against the B & B owners rejecting these guests. My arguement was that the place is their own home and the law at the time did not forbid disrimination in your own home, in fact the law specifically excepted your own home from the legislation. His response was 'suppose it was a matter of colour rather than sex?' My reponse to that was 'no matter - it is in your own home'.

These theoretical arguements are all very interesting and amusing, but there is one huge thing missing, and that is that we have not heard one word from the owners of the B & B about what actually happened on that occasion. Now that would be a very, very interesting thing to know.

I cannot help but feel that there must have been some sort of provocation. I used to play a lot of golf with a friend (also male), and we went all over the North of England and Wales staying in B & Bs in order to play in open amateur golf competitions (we never won any, but we came second once!). We shared a room, of course. No one ever queried our sexuality, and why should they?

I cannot help but think that the 'guests' must have known that the B & B owners were Christian and anti-gay. They may have demanded a double bed. They may have deliberately flouted their intentions by hugging and kissing. They may have done this deliberately in order to provoke a re-action.

I would love to hear the story of the owners of the B & B. It is a terrible shame that their side of the story has not been heard.

Mrs Rigby said...

Yes, it is a shame they have neither chosen nor been allowed to speak up, whilst the whole thing has become a political football.