Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A victory for equal rights

Imagine turning up to a hotel with your partner, only to be turned away because the hotel decides they don’t like the look of you. This sort of thing used to be common. Landlords could get away with displaying signs that said “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs”. Places of entertainment could employ doorman to turn away the ‘wrong sort’.

This soul-destroying experience of discrimination and bigotry is one that black, Irish and Muslim communities have known only too well in recent decades. And, behind the scenes, this sort of discrimination goes on today. If your face doesn’t fit, then you may still find that there is ‘no room at the inn’.


But at least the law is acting to put an end to this discrimination. Yesterday a court in Bristol ruled that a Christian couple did not have the right to turn away a gay couple who had booked to stay at their hotel.

People should have the right to live their own lives according to their own beliefs, religious or otherwise. Who you choose to invite into your own home is your concern. But if you run a public business, then you have a responsibility to all of us to treat people fairly, equally, and with dignity.

These legal landmarks are critical moments in challenging discrimination. They help to establish the norm that we are all equal, irrespective of our differences. They help to make our society more civilised and humane. In upholding the rights of the gay couple, the court is protecting the rights of all us who do not want to find the door slammed in our face because of the colour of our skin, or indeed our religion.