Leicestershire Tory candidate's sympathy for B&B owner in gay rights storm
A Tory candidate says he has "considerable sympathy" with bed and breakfast owners who wish to turn away gay couples.
Andrew Bridgen, who is standing in North West Leicestershire, made the comments after a visit to Ibstock by shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling.
Last week, Mr Grayling said B&B owners should "have the right" to turn away homosexual couples, a comment which provoked uproar from the gay community.
Mr Bridgen said: "At the end of the day our policy is, we voted for the Equality Bill and as far as people who run a business, they have to offer the same services to everyone.
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"But I do have sympathy with someone who is opening up their own home to a guest.
"A public house has the right to refuse a customer and they don't have to give a reason, so I have considerable sympathy for B and B owners in this case.
"It's a grey area, but perhaps the size of the establishment could separate the difference between opening your home to paying guests and a business."
Mr Grayling made his controversial comments after a speech in London last week.
Last month, gay couple Michael Black and John Morgan were turned away from a guest house in Berkshire because the owner said it was against her policy to accommodate same-sex couples.
Asked if he regretted his comments, Mr Grayling said: "I have voted for equal gay rights in the past. My voting record is in the open and I want to get on with winning an election."
While out canvassing with Mr Bridgen in the marginal seat, Mr Grayling also explained how those guilty of antisocial behaviour should receive "immediate community punishments".
He addressed the issue having recently visited Barwell to speak to those who knew Fiona Pilkington.
Ms Pilkington killed herself and her daughter after being taunted by yobs for years.
He said: "We need immediate punishments, an acceptable behaviour contract is just not enough.
"The alternatives are grounding orders which last up to a month and instant community punishments such as removing graffiti from a neighbour's wall."
Resident Tim Brain, 56, said: "For me the issue is law and order, the kids don't know right from wrong and it just escalates from there.
"The police work hard but they catch someone and they get a tap on the wrist. I'll probably vote Conservative."
At the last General Election in 2005, Labour polled more than 4,500 votes than the Tories in North West Leicestershire. This year the result is expected to be a lot closer after the sudden death of the constituency's Labour MP David Taylor on Boxing Day.