Lesbian bed ban sparks threats and abuse

COMPLAINT LODGED: Paula Knight, left, and Jane Collison were not welcome at the Pilgrim Planet Lodge in Whangarei.
COMPLAINT LODGED: Paula Knight, left, and Jane Collison were not welcome at the Pilgrim Planet Lodge in Whangarei.

Woman who chose not to stay at a guesthouse after being told she and her lesbian partner would have to sleep in single beds is disgusted at threats made to the lodge owners.

Karen and Michael Ruskin, of Pilgrim Planet Lodge, in central Whangarei, have received a death threat and verbal abuse over their stance on homosexuality.

Jane Collison, 30, and Paula Knight, 45, were told on May 7 they could only take a room with single beds at their lodge.

They had booked online a room with a king-sized bed, but Ruskin said that when the couple arrived they were told the lodge's policy was for same-sex couples to be put into a room with two king-single beds.

The engaged couple decided not to stay but could not find other accommodation until they got to Waipu.

Since, Ruskin said they had received one death threat and made a complaint to the police.

"We've been threatened to have our place burnt - it's pretty foul. They have zero tolerance if you say, 'No, you're not doing this in my home'," said Ruskin.

This upset Collison who commented today: "Nobody deserves such threats; it is disgusting, cruel and completely unnecessary. I do not wish that upon anyone."

Mrs Ruskin was sorry they had inconvenienced the couple, but was standing firm on her morals and the sanctity of her home.

"It's our home - it's not a motel," she said of her bed and breakfast-style lodge, where guests share lounge, kitchen and living areas.

Collison initially filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, because it is illegal to discriminate against someone in the provision of goods and services because of their sexual orientation.

But Ruskin said there was an exception in the Human Rights Act relating to shared residential accommodation.

She said that in 2010 a gay couple also complained to the commission after being asked to sleep apart, but that complaint was withdrawn when the exception for shared accommodation came to light.

Ruskin said she and her husband did not hate homosexuals and were happy for them to carry on with their lives.

"Everyone knows what homosexual activity is. It's quite clear if two guys rent one bed you know what's going to happen. We have to protect our other guests."

The Ruskins acknowledged the lodge was a business but said there needed to be a place for morals in business.

The couple was Antioch Orthodox Christian and had a small chapel inside the lodge, but Ruskin said she did not discriminate against other religions, and Muslims and Jewish people had stayed in the lodge.

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

"It is a closed bedroom. 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."

Note: An earlier version of this story stated that multiple death threats had been received. 

The Dominion Post