by Leah Waldron
First let me say, as an avid traveler, I am huge fan of bed & breakfasts. Vacation accommodations are an integral part of my trip—and I treat the “where will we stay?” question with the same amount of planning and forethought as I give to the “where should we go?” conundrum.
When I stay in a B & B, I feel like I am part of the owner’s family, and not simply a door-number of a large-scale commercial hotel. In the morning, the owners make me and my partner breakfast, just the way we like it. When we arrive, (most of) the owners ask us how the drive was—and if we want a cup of tea. The bedrooms are never boring, the den is always welcoming and full of great literature and games, and during my stay, I always feel “at home.”
Well, almost always. I’ve been turned away from a B & B for being gay, and I’m not alone.
In Cornwall, England in 2008, a gay couple was denied a room at a B & B that was owned by a married Christian couple. Their number one rule: No unmarried or gay couples will be permitted to spend the night in their home. (Um…maybe they picked the wrong line of work?) The court ruled in the gay couple’s favor, and forced the uptight owners to award over $5,000 in financial damages. However, the judge in the case allowed the owners to appeal. In America, similar cases are underway in both Hawaii and Illinois. It has taken decades, but for the first time, the American legal system is finally equating a B & B with a commercial business, and not a home.
This week, in what is now a landmark human rights case in Canada, a gay couple was awarded $4,500 in damages after the Mennonite owners of a British Columbia B & B refused the couple accommodations in 2009. The B.C. case was not so different from the Cornwall, England case, except for one major issue. The judge in the B.C. case awarded the men damages for “loss of self-respect and dignity.” The Canadian court system actually created a financial penalty for not only being discriminated against, but for being insulted.
Only in sweet, sweet Canada.
With this ruling, Canadian B & B owners will think twice about closing their doors to gay and lesbian travelers, or they will face heavy penalties for being insulting, bigoted scofflaws. There will be plenty of room at Canada’s quaint B & Bs for people who don’t look (and act and worship) like their respective owners. And why not? If people don’t want strangers in their home, why on Earth would they operate a bed & breakfast?
Future Canadian B & B travelers—I wish you a wonderful vacation. You may not like the B & B’s owners, but you are now welcome to stay as long as you please. And if you get the owners to insult your dignity and self-respect during your stay, you have legal recourse.
Just stay clear of the Riverbend B & B in British Columbia.