Grayling faces row over 'right' to turn away gay couples

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling is facing calls for his sacking after he said bed and breakfasts run by Christians should be allowed to turn away gay couples because of their sexuality.

Mr Grayling said hotels should not be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals, but he suggested individuals should have the right to decide who stayed in their home.

The comments to a meeting of the Centre for Policy Studies think tank sparked anger among gay rights activists and may prove embarrassing to Conservative leader David Cameron, who has made great play of his party's increased openness to homosexuals.

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Michael Black, 62, from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, who with his partner John Morgan was turned away from a bed and breakfast in Cookham, Berkshire, because of their sexuality, said Mr Cameron should sack Mr Grayling.

After a recording of his comments was published in The Observer, Mr Grayling said he was not opposed to gay rights and would not be pressing for a change in the law, but felt it was important to respect the sensitivities of faith groups.

The recording of the meeting on Wednesday shows Mr Grayling said: "I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences. I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a hotel, I took the view that if it's a question of somebody who's doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn't come into their own home.

"If they are running a hotel on the High Street, I really don't think that it is right in this day and age that a gay couple should walk into a hotel and be turned away because they are a gay couple, and I think that is where the dividing line comes."

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Home Secretary Alan Johnson said: "David Cameron should either back him on this or sack him."

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said Mr Grayling should apologise for his remarks and Mr Cameron needed to speak out on the issue.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne told BBC News: "You have had time and again the public face of the Conservative Party saying they accept what has happened in the modernisation of society, that people shouldn't be discriminated (against) if they are in minorities ... and yet as soon as there is a chance privately to talk among friends in a conservative-leaning think tank the story is very different."