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Cheers - AE

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The clash of rights.

The desire to enshrine the rights of everyone and their interests has inevitably created a few conflicts, and it seems this is often when it comes to the rights of a religious group and the rights of gays. In the last few days there have been two clashes: a gay couple who were refused a double bedroom by Christian hotel owners and gay groups criticizing the trustees of the late Queen Mother's home for allowing weddings but not civil partnership ceremonies. First off the gay couple and the hotel:
The pair, from Bristol, booked a room at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion, Cornwall, last September, but when they arrived were told that only married heterosexual couples could stay in the same room.
However, under the new Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, it is unlawful to refuse a person goods or facilities on the grounds of their sexuality.
Mr Preddy and Mr Hall told the hotel manager, Bernie Quinn, that he was acting illegally before leaving the premises and reporting the incident to police.
Mr and Mrs Bull have defended their policy, which bans all unmarried couples – both heterosexual and homosexual – from sharing a bed.
It has been in place since they took over the business in 1986, and is founded in their strong Christian beliefs.
On the booking page of their website there is a "special note" which reads: "Here at Chymorvah we have few rules, but please note that as Christians we have a deep regard for marriage (being the union of one man to one woman for life to the exclusion of all others).
"Therefore, although we extend to all a warm welcome to our home, our double bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples – Thank you."
I sympathise with Messrs Preddy and Hall, I really do. I think the owners of the hotel are being unnecessarily prudish for reasons of faith or superstition depending on your point of view. But it's their hotel and they should have the final word about who stays and under what conditions, because you see they own the fucking place. It may well be unlawful under the legislation mentioned for them to do this, and I certainly think it's unreasonable (and bad business to boot) but it's a stupid law that says what the owners can and can't do. They'll probably lose because being gay trumps being Christian despite a nominal right to believe in whatever version of the invisible sky fairy you like, but I feel very strongly that if I can say dictate what goes on in my property the Bulls should be able to do the same. If you don't agree with their rules, and I don't, boycott the place and deny them your custom. Spend your money elsewhere and encourage others to do the same and maybe they'll be forced by economics to be a bit more open minded or simply go bust. A law that discriminates against the religious and infringes their property rights is no solution to a religiously inspired bias against homosexuals. It's one of those situations where accommodating both is impossible because they are mutually exclusive, so in my view it comes down to who owns the place. If the situation were reversed and the Bulls had gone round to dinner at Mr Preddy's and Mr Hall's house and sued because they were being openly gay in defiance of the Bible or something we'd all tell them that Preddy and Hall can do what they want in their own home.

Next we have the weddings at the Castle of Mey:
The trustees at the Castle of Mey near John o' Groats, said the late Queen Mother preferred that people were married in a Christian ceremony and that they had decided to offer only Christian weddings conducted by a priest or minister.
Ironically, the decision would have prevented the Prince of Wales - who is president of the trustees - from marrying at a castle that has been in his family since the 1950s. The Prince, known in Scotland as the Duke of Rothesay, married Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 in a civil ceremony at Windsor's Guildhall.
James Murray, the Trust administrator, said that as the castle did not have a wedding licence, it could hold Christian weddings - because priests and ministers are already licensed themselves. However, in order to hold civil ceremonies it would have to apply for a licence.
Its decision not to means that no civil ceremonies and no civil partnerships between homosexual couples will take place at the historic venue.
The homosexual and lesbian rights group Outrage claimed the Queen Mother would be "spinning in her grave".
David Allison, a spokesman for the group, added: "This seems even more ridiculous given that The Queen Mother surrounded herself with gay people. Doing this at the Queen Mother's old residence is particularly odd. She had no problem with gay people, quite the opposite."...
Christina Stokes, of Stonewall Scotland, added: "As the Earl of Devon discovered last summer, it is illegal for a venue to allow weddings and yet turn away couples who want a civil partnership."
The General Register Office of Scotland also pointed out that while wedding venues needed a licence for a civil marriage, none was required for a civil partnership, although the event would have to be approved by the local authority.
Lord Devon was prevented from holding civil marriages at Powderham Castle near Exeter when the local council withdrew his wedding licence after he refused to allow two men to marry there.
Stonewall claimed the decision by the trustees appeared to be a breach of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.
Normally groups like Outrage and Stonewall piss me off because of their history of outing gay people who would rather have stayed in the closet. It may have been silly and unnecessary because being gay should not be a cause for shame, but how fucking dare anybody out someone who doesn't want to come out. Unfuckingforgiveable. So normally if these groups are for something I'm probably opposed, but because I think they're a bunch of bastards who want their rights to take precedence over anyone else's rather than the simple and irrelevant nature of their sexual preference. And this example follows form. I'd agree with them that a venue ought not discriminate against gays, but if they don't want to or can't be bothered to get the fucking licence sorted out that's up to them. Stonewall and Outrage have got to grow the fuck up and learn that you can't overcome discrimination against gays by demanding that the property rights of other people are trashed. It doesn't matter if it's because they're religious or too tight to spring for a licence or even if they really are bigoted wankers - it's their property and they can do with it as they please. Criticize all you want - that's free speech. Make idiotic prejudice public and ridicule it - that's free speech too. Boycott and spend elsewhere and hurt them financially - nobody can tell you what to do with your money (well, after the government's had its share). I'd support all of those things, but not overturning someone else's property rights because your feelings are hurt.

I tend to agree with Bishop Hill when he wrote that he has
...come to the conclusion that a human right essentially defines an entitlement and therefore a duty on government (and perhaps on others), while a liberty defines a restriction on government (and perhaps on others). I've also concluded that human rights are potentially disastrous.
In modern Britain I think that serves very well as a definition. He's not done though:
By creating entitlements, but no understanding of how to balance different people's entitlements off against each other, they create confusion and sow discord and eventually leave the field of debate entirely empty, ready for government to legislate as they wish.
The Bishop's point is very well made and worth reading in full, though his example is Home Education. I think it's just as valid here though. Where the Bishop says that the government has simply decided that any parental right to privacy in their own home is secondary it's much the same as hotel and wedding venue owners being unable to decide for themselves who their clientele should be. That's rights for you - an inevitable conflict with the state as arbiter, and the more conflicts it creates the more it will be needed to act as arbiter. Liberties on the other hand, and using the Bishop's definition, would have the state simply shrug it's shoulders and say 'nothing to do with us, you must sort it out between you like adults'. The result of that would be as I suggested above - people would simply take their money where it was welcome instead.

Let me put it another way. I'm straight and non religious. Would I be the victim of discrimination if a gay pub refused me admission because I'm straight or a church said I couldn't get married there because I'm going to hell and might take them with me? BZZZZZT whatever you say is the wrong answer, because it's the wrong question in the first place. The correct question is would I care or would I simply say fuck 'em and go elsewhere?
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