Chris Grayling, the Tory MP who notoriously failed to become Home Secretary would no doubt blanch at the news, but the B&B owners whom he supported, causing the homophobic storm which so damaged his career, are getting sued for their bigoted treatment of the gay couple who tried to stay with them:
Michael Black, 62, and John Morgan, 56, will take legal action against Susanne and Mike Wilkinson, owners of the Swiss B&B in Berkshire.
They are being supported by human rights and civil freedom charity Liberty, which compared them to black American civil rights heroine Rosa Parks.
The couple had already booked a room and paid a deposit when they arrived at the B&B but Mrs Wilkinson turned them away when she realised they were two men.
She said that allowing them to stay would violate her religious beliefs.
Mr Black and Mr Morgan called the police over her refusal and were told they could make a civil claim against the Wilkinsons.
Good. They were in breach of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, and there needs to be a consequence for anti-gay discrimination when in breach of the law. Many Tories in the new ConDemNation coalition, particularly the new intake of evangelical Christians, will no doubt be aghast, but the law applies equally to everyone or it might as well apply to noone. Mr Wilkinson responded saying:
Mr Wilkinson said he was disappointed that Liberty was taking the side of the gay couple.
“We are rather surprised that Liberty would be so one-sided in a matter of liberty because there are two liberties to uphold in this case.
“There is a religious liberty to uphold and there is the right for homosexuals to practise what they want to do. We have received the letter from them.
“We don’t want to go to court but if they want us to then I suppose we will have to. We are sorry we have offended these guys.”
Liberty fortunately understands that just because there are two liberties to be considered, that both cannot and should not always be accommodated. In this case the Wilkinsons have the right to practice their religion and believe whatever they like, but do not have the right, as a business providing a service, for any reason to discriminate in the provision of goods or services. Belief rightly doesn’t get an opt out from the provisions of the law, and nor should it.
Control orders appear to be on their way out, after becoming victims of their own twisted logic:
Most of the remaining control orders imposed on terror suspects are expected to be revoked following the decision by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, to free a man with Libyan and British nationality after three years under virtual house arrest.
The control order imposed on the man, known only as AF, was withdrawn last week as his lawyers prepared for a court hearing at which Johnson would have been forced to disclose the secret intelligence case against him.
The decision followed a landmark law lords ruling in June that it was unlawful to use “secret evidence” to place restrictions, including a 16-hour curfew, on terror suspects who had never been charged or tried in open court.
The unanimous ruling by nine judges, led by the senior law lord, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, opened the way for the 20 suspects on control orders to launch fresh legal challenges demanding to know the nature of the allegations against them.
This abuse of habeas corpus was one of the most disgusting pieces of legislation of the entire New Labour project. It’s a fundamental tenet of our way of life that you can’t lock anyone up without laying down a charge against them and providing evidence to back up that charge. Yet the state deemed it acceptable to control people’s movements, to inhibit their freedom, to limit their possessions and restrict their ability to communicate because they ‘couldn’t be prosecuted in court’ for fear of ‘revealing secret intelligence’. So they were ‘terror suspects’, so what? Habeas corpus has never been restricted by race, religion, gender or social class; to suggest that the law and judicial system couldn’t cope with certain individuals because of their race, religion or political affiliations was always illogical at best, deeply racist at worst. And refusing even to pass the evidence held against suspects to their lawyers was a huge violation of human rights as laid down by the Universal Declaration and the European Convention on Human Rights. Now the justification of ‘secret evidence’ has been thrown out, control orders seem likely to pass into one of the murkiest eras of modern British history. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty said:
“Whilst some people have been driven quite mad by years of punishment without trial, suspects are allowed to wander through densely populated public spaces and many have disappeared. Those responsible for this policy should be thoroughly ashamed for creating so much injustice for so little security in return.”
The fight to stop Gary McKinnon’s extradition to the United States under the grossly unjust Extradition Treaty has escalated with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joining in the campaign, alongside the British human rights pressure group Liberty:
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been backed in the past by stars like Al Pacino and Martin Sheen, wrote to David Miliband, the foreign secretary, expressing its concern about extradition arrangements between Britain and America.
In the letter, Anthony Romero, the union’s executive director, complained that Britons were “exposed to the risk of ill-founded extradition requests”.
This was because British prosecutors have to provide “enough information to provide a reasonable basis to believe that the person sought committed the offence”.
In contrast, American prosecutors need only detail the charges, which cannot be challenged, in a British court.
Mr Romero added: “We are concerned about the threats to the rights of British people and the unfair lopsided aspect of the treaty that means while Americans have basic constitutional protections…
“British residents can be subject to extradition without equivalent evidentary requirements being made out.”
Liberty’s director Shami Chakrabarti said:
“”The intervention of Liberty’s sister, the American Civil Liberties Union, proves that Britain’s Extradition Act is an international embarrassment. Vulnerable people like Gary McKinnon can be bundled off to other countries when they ought to be dealt with at home.
Janis Sharp’s campaign for fairness for her son Gary has touched the hearts of parents everywhere. If Parliament doesn’t amend Britain’s rotten Extradition Act to put discretion and common sense back into the system, other vulnerable sons and daughters are bound to suffer.”
You can join Liberty’s campaign to save Gary McKinnon from unjust extradition, and to face trial in the UK instead by going here. You can also join Gary’s mother’s Twitter account, which will keep you fully updated on all aspects of the campaign.