Today marked the end of a battle between the G1 Group, owned by Stefan King, and two people who just wanted to go to the pub. On 13th June last year, Robert & Nathan Gale were turned away from the Polo Lounge, in Glasgow’s Merchant City because Robert was using his wheelchair at the time. Neither required wheelchairs to enter the building (a fact demonstrated by Robert exiting his wheelchair and making his own way towards the door) and both have attended the venue in the past.
It’s fair to say, they knocked back the wrong people. Robert & Nathan went to the club having just attended the Scottish Charity Awards, where their contribution to equal rights in Scotland was being recognised. The suggestion of a legal challenge was there from the beginning. When we reported the story/called Stefan King a wanker, there were already suggestions that G1 should have their day in court. It wasn’t our place to be making demands on people who’d simply gone for a drink, they could have just backed down and moved on. They didn’t back down.
Today, in Glasgow’s Sheriff Court, the couple were awarded £2000. That hardly makes up for the humiliation of their experience, never mind the horrors that are inevitable if you’re attempting to bring a massive group like G1 to justice in court. But this was never about Robert & Nathan and it certainly wasn’t about money.
Thanking all those who have supported them on their Facebook page today, Robert Gale said,
This was never about us. We didn’t do this for us. What happened that night has already had its impact on us and nothing can change that. We took this case in the hope that it would give people faith that discrimination law can work, that as disabled people we don’t just have to accept the treatment we receive. We took this case for that young LGBT disabled person whose first experience of trying to access their so called community is to be told that they’re not wanted. We took this case to show every company who thinks it can get away with treating disabled people like they are unworthy of using their services that they can’t.
When a business decides to make itself available to provide goods and services to people, they lose the right to discriminate. It really is that simple. Venues who operate discriminatory door policies (and let’s face it, there are lots of them) will now be forced to consider whether their actions would be defensible in court. The massive publicity which has surrounded this case should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks they can get away with picking and choosing their punters, based on how they look. For too long, code phrases like “regulars only” have been used to justify blatant racism and discrimination and today’s victory for the Gales should give us some confidence that we can begin to challenge that.
Glasgow’s LGBTQ community needed a kick up the arse and we should not miss this opportunity to ask what we could do better. It’s not enough for us to just cheer on Robert & Nathan from the sidelines and then go out for a dance at the Polo. Today, we had confirmation of what should have been obvious all along, that clubs like Polo discriminate against people. They may be slightly more careful about not fucking off 2 specific human rights campaigners in future (although I doubt they’ll be back to find out) but you can rest assured that people who don’t look or aren’t dressed the part are being turned away from G1 venues day and daily, and more importantly, turned away from our community, which claims to stand for equality, tolerance and respect. Tonight, we must proudly say that our community can and will be for everyone again – and accept that simply won’t happen in venues owned and operated by Stefan King.
What’s good for the gay goose works just as well for those who don’t gander over that side of the street. Along with the discrimination faced by the Nathan & Robert, we’ve had the scandal of men paying to perv on woman at the Shimmy club, the rape “jokes” made at a G1 quiz night, Corinthian losing their late night booze license etc. etc. The King never seems to crown himself in glory, so maybe it’s time we learned to take ourselves elsewhere.
This judgement sends a message, not just to the G1 Group and Stefan King but to all those who operate what should be our public spaces – we are watching you, we will stand up for ourselves and each other and, if you mess with us, we will fight.
Today’s ruling is a victory for disabled people who’ve been made to feel excluded and unwelcome in their own community, a victory for LGBTQ people who’re tired of giving our cash to people who have no respect for the future we‘re fighting for or for us, a victory for everyone who’s had enough of the G1 Group, Stefan King and their attempts to turn our city into a commodified clone-zone.
For me personally though, tonight isn’t about Stefan King. I know they keep saying it’s not about them but tonight, I want to celebrate two people who’ve stood their ground in the face of discrimination. So the most important thing is to say a massive thank you, to the two people who’ve inspired us over the last year, to plough on when things were looking rough.
In summation: It’s a massive thank you to Robert & Nathan Gale and a massive get it right up ye to Stefan King. Or in the more eloquent words of Robert Gale,
“this won’t be the last time we’ll face discrimination. But for today, we won.”