Guesthouse refuses to let gay couple sleep together

SIMON DAY
Last updated 05:00 11/05/2013
Paula Knight
COMPLAINT LODGED: Paula Knight, left, and Jane Collison were not welcome at the Pilgrim Planet Lodge in Whangarei.

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A lesbian couple have been turned away from a Whangarei guesthouse that refused to let them share a bed.

Jane Collison, 30, and Paula Knight, 45, made an online booking for a room with a king-sized bed at the Pilgrim Planet Lodge.

But when they arrived on Tuesday, they were told only rooms with single beds were available.

When they queried the booking, the owner eventually told them the booking was correct, but she was offended by same-sex couples sleeping in the same bed. She would not even let them push two singles together.

The engaged couple decided not to stay. "I don't want my hard-earned money going to someone who disapproves of my lifestyle," Ms Collison said.

They eventually found accommodation 50 kilometres away.

Ms Collison has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. It is illegal under the Human Rights Act to discriminate against someone in the provision of goods and services because of their sexual orientation.

But owner Karen Ruskin said she and husband Michael could dictate what went on at the property: "Homosexuals have a whole industry of hotels that they can go to," she said.

"Why do they assume that we have to change our standards, our values, to accommodate behaviour that is sodomy?"

In the past, same-sex couples have been allowed to stay at the Pilgrim Planet Lodge, but only if they slept in separate single beds.

But Ms Collison said what went on behind closed doors was none of the Ruskins' business.

"It is a closed bedroom, she is not invited in there.

"I'm not allowed to cuddle my partner in a shared bed, but if I walked in there with a random guy I picked up off the street she would let me in. This is my fiancee."

The Ruskins believe they are exempted from the provisions of the Human Rights Act because they also live in the lodge.

"This is our home, we are not a big motel," Mrs Ruskin said. "In our home, where our grandchildren are, where our guests are, we don't want sodomy."

Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis confirmed there was a legal exception with regards to shared residential accommodation. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is permitted if you are renting out accommodation which you are to share with the person to whom you are renting it.

But there has been no definition of what "shared" meant. "I would imagine it would have been put in when three guys are looking for a flatmate and those sorts of situations," Dr Geddis said.

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Ms Knight and Ms Collison got engaged two months ago in Vanuatu and intend to marry.

The service is unlikely to be in Whangarei.

- Fairfax Media

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