Unless you're gay, of course, as Michael Black and John Morgan found out when they attempted to check-in to Ms Wilkinson's 'warm & friendly' guest house, ahead of a night out at the theatre with friends. As is now well known, Ms Wilkinson's 'warm & friendly' welcome extended to refusing to let them check in, giving them their booking fee back, and turfing them orf her land.
Coincidentally, as Alex Deane pointed out in his superb post yesterday, it is now illegal to incite hatred against gay people. I'm not sure that refusing to let you stay in a guest house would count as inciting hatred, but a professor of law has helpfully contacted Mr Black and Mr Morgan, to suggest that Ms Wilkinson's actions may already be a contravention of the 2006 Equality Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on grounds of their sexual orientation. I'm not a lawyer, but humiliating a guest from whom you'd accepted a booking, on the grounds of the chromosomal disposition of the person they turn up with, is probably ipso facto a case of discrimination. It's certainly not what I'd call 'warm & friendly', so maybe the advertising standards authority should contact Ms Wilkinson to discuss her website.
Yeah I'm hacked off by this. So I ought to be glad of Labour's tirade of legislation to protect gay people from such blatant rudeness? Well no, of course I'm not. I sometimes feel like I've been writing about this for years. Oh I have. No matter how rude Ms Wilkinson is, it's just wrong to criminalise someone because they don't approve of homosexuality. (I feel exactly the same with regard to the discussion of religion. I'd never be rude about someone's faith. But it's ridiculous to make someone a criminal if they do cause offence). It's philosophically wrong and it's practically unhelpful.
There is plenty of real crime for the police to focus on - against all of us, I know, but sometimes, horribly, against gay folk in particular. I'm not someone who claims that targeted hatred of gay people is an invention, and that it has no violent sequel in real life. A man I knew, slightly, was kicked to death in Trafalgar Square last year, for the 'crime' of challenging some abusive teenagers who were amusing themselves by screaming obscenities at him. But. But. The legislation which may be brought down on Ms Wilkinson's head wouldn't have changed that murder (the court called it manslaughter; I call it murder). In fact - I'm not sure I'd go this far, but it's possible to construct the argument - by creating an atmosphere where people are afraid to speak their mind, in case they are villified - criminalised - for it, is it not at least possible that such legislation leads to a culture where there is greater, not lesser, tolerance for physical attacks on gay people? I don't know. But the thought occurs to me.
And that's why I'm angry. Real people get killed in this country for standing up for their right to be gay. But I can't understand why the penalty for kicking a gay man to death should be any different to the penalty for kicking a straight man to death. The government fiddles around with Identity legislation which ends up being used against people like Ms Wilkinson. It's at best a distraction from the real crime that makes too many people's lives a misery. I wouldn't have Ms Wilkinson for dinner, but she's guilty of rudeness, not violence.
I've a suggestion for the Ms Wilkinson and others like her. If we do away with the hate-crime identity legislation, and return Britain to the sort of country where you can think and say what you like, within limits, then you have to do your bit too, to avoid any potential future embarrassments for guests. Ms Wilkinson, I hope you don't end up being prosecuted. But you should edit your website. Remove the nonsense about a 'warm & friendly welcome', and replace it with words that express what you really mean: 'No Poofs'. Then we'll let the market decide what happens to your business. And the police can focus on keeping the streets safe for all of us.