The right of a bigot to profit?

In the 1980's I was in a town in Herefordshire where I noticed a sign in a pub that said All Welsh people are banned from this pub – no Welsh allowed. My initial response to the sign was one of extreme anger, of personal insult – it shouldn't be allowed;. If there was a brick nearby I would have been extremely tempted to throw it through the pub's window.

I went into the pub and ordered a pint, expecting to be ejected and being able to phone the media to complain. I was served, unfortunately. The landlord didn't recognise my mid-Wales accent as Welsh, presumably he thought that all Welsh people speak with a valleys' accent (cf some of the media portrayals of Lloyd George).

Having been served I felt dirty, I had given this horrible bigot the profit on a pint and achieved nothing! If I had gone to the media his justification would have been that he HAD served me.

If the sign had been illegal at the time, and if, because of equality legislation, he was not allowed to refuse to serve me or express his bigoted view about Welsh people, would his personal opinion about the Welsh have been different? Probably not. But I might have stayed in his pub for more than one pint and given the jerk even more profit.

The same is the case with the B&B owner who refused to have a homosexual couple in her house.

Do gays want the law to force her to profit from them, despite her personal opinion?

Or do they want her to have a freedom of opinion that they can challenge and debate?


  1. For what it's worth, I suspect there's a generational thing going on: the ones at the forefront of this campaign grew up during the Thatcher years and so had to deal with matters like Section 28 and the initial hysteria towards HIV/AIDS. What I'd suggest is that given the confrontational nature of that era, these people are so used to shouting and fighting for their rights that, frankly, it's all they know how to do and it doesn't occur to them that there might be a better, smarter way to deliver change in cases like this.

    You could also argue that, as legislation was used against them during the Thatcher era, legislation is seen as the way forward to fight back thereafter, especially as legislation was 100% necessary in previous forward steps: the legalisation of homosexuality, the eventual equalisation of the age of consent, the repeal of Section 28, civil partnership legislation and, to an extent, anti-discrimination law in the workplace all spring to mind.

    I'd argue that in that case, there are three questions that campaigners need to ask (but haven't done) before they kick off:

    1. Is this worth a major battle?

    2. How do we fight it?

    3. What is the desired outcome?

    To which I think the answers are: 1) Not if we can go to a different B&B conveniently located in the 21st Century; 2) If we want to make a thing about this, we can use word of mouth to put people off staying there, effectively launching a low-level boycott; and 3) We want B&B owners to realise that our money is just as good as anyone else's, and that can be achieved far more successfully with the balance sheet rather than the statute book.

    To me, of more serious concern than getting a night at the Shangri-La Guest House is the worry that the Tories appear to be facing both ways on equality, particularly given the antics of the Tory MEPs in terms of their choice of allies and behaviour towards matters such as Lithuania's new anti-gay legislation, seen as that country's equivalent of Section 28. If there's a battle to be fought, that's the one to focus on, and faffing around with fripperies like this puts LGBT communities' readiness to fight the big battles at risk...

  2. Fair points. However my concern is that, if B& Bs were legally allowed to discriminate, could it actually become quite widespread, so that we end up back in the old situation where those that accept gays are a rarity?

  3. The parallel is quite interesting between you in the pub and allowing gay couples staying in the B&B.

    Saying the banning people for being Welsh is a bit stupid. You can tell the publican probably made the assumption that all Welsh people talk like Windsor Davies or Max Boyce and if I had walked in there, I am pretty sure that I would have been served. Namely I am from North Wales, with a North East Walian accent.

    In the same vain, how can you ban Gay couples though? How would a B&B manager know they are banning a gay couple?

    I think there is legislation to be had but a B&B manager who turns away business is a bad businessman.

  4. It might start with allowing a very small guest house to bar the service of gay people, but the bigots of Britain would love that.
    Then they`d be after blood, and if allowed to look down on one minority, the Daily Mail etc would make sure they`d move to the rest....
    Immigrants,non-whites,non-christians....Gipsies, Eastern Europeans,

  5. I agree with both Will and Neb o Nebo, the B&B owners made a bad business decision and the way to deal with that is through not giving bigots our business.

    I understand the points that Alun and Joe are making. Yes relaxing equality legislation might increase incidences of discrimination, and that would be undesirable; the problem is that making it illegal for people to express their discriminatory opinions doesn't change their attitudes, it strengthens them if anything.

    I would like to persuade people not to be homotrepid, racist or sexist, but if it is illegal for people to raise such prejudices it is allso impossible to challenge their views and persuade them that such views are wrong.

    It is anecdotall, but my feeling is that people are less tolerant now than they were 20 years ago, precisly because we are using doctrinair and legal tools to say "you can't say that", rather than using reason to explain why such attitudes are wrong. We come down on people with neo papal dictacts rather than trying to persuade them to change.