'You're not doing this in my home': lesbian bed ban sparks threats and abuse

Complaint: Paula Knight, left, and Jane Collison.
Complaint: Paula Knight, left, and Jane Collison. Photo: Supplied

The owners of a New Zealand guesthouse who refused to let a lesbian couple share a bed are standing firm despite threats.

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

But they say they will not have their beliefs silenced, even if it puts their business at risk.

Lesbian couple Jane Collison, 30, and Paula Knight, 45, decided not to stay at the lodge on May 7 after being told they could only have a room with single beds.

They had booked online a room with a king-sized bed but Mrs 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.

Mrs Ruskin said she was sorry for the couple's inconvenience but was standing firm on her morals and the sanctity of her home.

The Ruskins live in the bed and breakfast-style lodge, where guests share lounge, kitchen and living areas.

"It's our home - it's not a motel."

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that in 2010 a gay couple also complained to the commission after being asked to sleep apart, but that complaint was withdrawn when the exception for shared accommodation came to light.

Mrs 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."

But Mrs Ruskin said the homosexual community had shown nothing but hate toward the Ruskins' beliefs.

"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'."

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 Mrs Ruskin said she did not discriminate against other religions, and Muslims and Jewish people had stayed in the lodge.

Ms 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."

Fairfax NZ News

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