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Lesbian couple denied shared bed at lodge

Fri 10 May 2013 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

The Pilgram Planet Lodge in Whangarei An engaged lesbian couple say they are shocked and humiliated after being denied a pre-booked room at a Whangarei lodge, where one of the owners said allowing them to share a bed would offend her religious beliefs. In a case Green MP Kevin Hague describes as ‘appalling’, couple Jane and Paula had to travel another 50 kilometres to find somewhere else to stay. Jane tells Daily News she and her partner had asked for an early check-in at the Pilgrim Planet Lodge when they booked the room with a king-sized bed online. “I went to check in: as Paula had booked under her name, she gave me her business card to take to reception while she makes some business calls in the car,” Jane says. At check-in, the owner looked at Paula’s card and back at Jane, and said the room was not ready. Jane explained they just needed to drop off their gear as they had appointments to get to. “Then she said they only have rooms with single beds. I explained we booked a king-size bed, but I said I could push them together and re-make them if she supplied the king-sized linen. She then admitted she did have a king booked for us, but she would have to split it.” Jane expressed her confusion, and says the woman then stated: “we cannot have two women, or men, sleeping in the same bed. This is my home and it is offensive to me.” She then realised what the problem was and asked “so we offend your religious beliefs, correct?” to which she says the woman replied “Yes it does, best you find accommodation elsewhere”. Jane says she was in such a state of shock that she responded very calmly, and did not get emotional, raise her voice or use offensive language. “Getting angry would not help anyone,” she explains. “Plus even though we were sent back to the street, without our booked accommodation, I knew my hard-earned money was not worthy of ending up in such discriminating and hurtful person's bank account. “Paula is Christian too, but we both found this lady's approach to us very unchristian, indeed,” Jane adds. The whole city was booked out due to an international hockey tournament and it took them until dark to find somewhere to stay, 50 kilometres away in Waipu Cove. It’s the first time in the 30-year-old’s life she has faced discrimination and she still can’t believe it happened. “Paula is my life-partner and fiancée; of course we sleep in the same bed like any other couple.” Her confidence in her and Paula simply being treated like a normal couple has been shattered. “I am very nervous about our future experiences checking into hotels. I feel humiliated and shocked that this actually happens in New Zealand,” she says. Jane says they have stayed in accommodation all over New Zealand, and in four other countries, but never experienced anything like this. “I would like the hotel to know it is discrimination, just as if I owned a hotel and turned them down for their religious beliefs,” she says. “My money was not worth anything to them, I was just a second-class citizen. Yes I would like an apology, but I would like other businesses to know it is not ok to turn people down for such reasons as sexual orientation. My partner and I are having difficulties recovering from this incident.” The Human Rights Commission says under the Human Rights Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone in the provision of goods and services because of their sexual orientation. “On the information provided to the Commission, the couple concerned can make a discrimination complaint to the Commission where it can be fully assessed.” Green MP Kevin Hague says the case is appalling. “The principle that someone providing a commercial service cannot express their prejudice through discrimination has been in New Zealand law for nearly forty years, and sexual orientation discrimination has been specifically illegal for two decades.” His colleague and co-spokesperson on rainbow issues Jan Logie agrees it’s a shocking story. “I'm surprised at how unabashedly discriminatory this lodge owner has been. Her actions clearly contravene the Human Rights Act,” she says. “While her religious beliefs may mean she is uncomfortable sharing a roof with lesbians sharing a bed or god forbid having sex, she needs to review whether living on site is the right option for her. “To accept such an argument would open up the path for lodge owners to ask and then monitor if people are using condoms, having sex before marriage or any number of potentially offensive, to them, behaviours. That would be as offensive and ridiculous as this is.” The Pilgrim Planet Lodge has five rooms and is run by its owners, Michael and Karen Ruskin, who live on site. They have not responded to a request Daily News sent yesterday afternoon, asking them to explain their stance, and whether they are aware it breaches the Human Rights Act. The lodge’s website says its “accommodation is suited for couples, corporate and single travellers,” but makes no mention of same-sex couples being unwelcome. Have you ever experienced this type of discrimination?  Email us at    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Friday, 10th May 2013 - 8:44am

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