Communities Minister: Wedding stationer refusing gay couples is like a B&B turning away black people

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Communities Minister Stephen Williams has commented on the case of a wedding stationer which refused to provide her services to a gay couple because she is a Jehovah’s Witness, to say it is similar to people being turned away from B&Bs for being black or Irish.

Jill Wilson, who runs Just For You Invitations, based in Lancashire, said she could not offer her services to Gary O’Reilly and his fiancé, because she is a Jehovah’s Witness.

Mr O’Reilly told PinkNews he was upset at the refusal, saying: “We would understand if her company was solely aimed at her religious group – but it’s not. She does not refuse anyone due to their religion yet she is quite happy to refuse us because of our sexuality.”

The couple have now chosen a different company to produce invitations for their wedding.

Stephen Williams, the Lib Dem MP for Bristol West said: “It seems quite shocking that anyone would turn down business from someone based on their sexual orientation, and therefore would spoil their special day.

“It’s not just wrong, it’s illegal to discriminate against people when you are providing goods and services, you should not discriminate on the grounds of sexuality or race.”

When asked his opinion on the fact that Ms Wilson attempted to justify her actions by stating that she is a Jehovah’s Witness, he said: “If they have a deeply held religious views they should separate them from their commercial activities, which have to take place within the framework of the law of the land.

“This is the same sort of thing as people used to have notices in their B&B windows reading ‘no blacks, no dogs no Irish’, we’ve moved on from that. If people want to operate in business, and have all the protections that the law gives people to operate as a commercial enterprise, then they need to comply with all aspects of the law and not cherry pick.”

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, believes the business should be prosecuted for breaking the Equality Act 2010.

Gay rights charity Stonewall also criticised Ms Wilson, who refused to comment to PinkNews.

Stonewall’s Media Manager Richard Lane said: “The business may be called ‘Just For You Invitations’, but the law is absolutely clear that it cannot be just for straight people. Not only is it unlawful it just makes bad business sense too.”

The Equality Act 2010 states that it’s illegal to refuse to provide goods and services based upon a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) states anyone who thinks that they have been discriminated against unlawfully because of their sexual orientation should take steps to enforce their rights.

A DCMS spokesperson said: “A first step would be to make contact with someone who can give them advice in an individual case, such as the Equality and Advisory Support Service, and that’s what our advice would be to anyone who thinks they have been discriminated against.”