An estate agent has removed a property from its books after its Christian owners said they did not want a gay couple to make an offer.
Luke Main, 33, a builder, and his wife, Dr Joanna Brunker, 34, a Cambridge University medical physicist, reportedly refused to let a gay couple view their £650,000 home in Surrey.
Luke Whitehouse, of Putney, south-west London, and his partner, Lachlan Mantell, an ITV producer, made enquiries about the three-bed, semi–detached cottage.
However, when they contacted the owners, they are said to have responded with passages from the Bible and said that they could not sell the house to “two men in a partnership”.
As a result of the dispute, Purplebricks, the property company, has removed the advert from their website, saying that the Christian couple’s “stance is completely opposed to our views and values”.
When Mr Whitehouse and Mr Mantell, who have been together for eight years and originally hail from Adelaide, Australia, enquired about the property, they received a message from the owners saying: “Would you mind telling us a bit about your position and circumstances when you have a moment please?”
Mr Mantell replied: “‘I’m a 37-year-old TV producer for ITV and Luke is a 33-year-old business owner in education.”
However, he said he received a response that left him in tears. It read: “We’re sorry if we seem intrusive, but we just want to make clear that we would be unwilling for two men in a partnership to view or buy our house.
“As it is contrary to the gracious teaching in God’s Word, the Holy Bible, e.g Romans 1:24-28 and Jude 7 (King James Version). With regards.”
‘Homophobia is still out there’
Mr Mantell told MailOnline: “Initially for the first 10 seconds I laughed. I thought it was a joke.
“But then I was upset and angry and I had a cry on the phone to my mum. Homophobia still exists, it is still out there. I did not see it coming. I was blindsided by it.”
He reported their texts to Purplebricks, which was selling it via Rightmove, which has now decided to cease selling the property.
A Purplebricks spokesperson said: “Purplebricks celebrates diversity and the message that Lachlan and Luke received is completely opposed to our views and values. We immediately contacted the seller to return their fee and request that they sell their property with a different agent.”
This is not the first time that Ms Brunker and Mr Main have expressed their views on gay relationships - both of them wrote to a House of Lords Committee in 2019 outlining their views on how the subject should be handled in schools’ “relationship education”.
Mr Main is listed as a director of LM Buildscapes, a company which was dissolved in 2011. Dr Bunker, who obtained her PhD at University College London, appeared on a 2017 YouTube video as a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Physics and the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge.
She is currently listed as staff on the website of Cambridge University’s Synthetic Biology Interdisciplinary Research Centre.
Contacted by MailOnline, Mr Main said he would have to discuss the matter with his wife, but added: “Not that we’re ashamed of what we said in any way.”
Dr Brunker did not respond to a request for comment via the University of Cambridge made by this newspaper. The Telegraph also attempted to contact Mr Main.
Echoes of ‘gay cake row’
The incident has echoes of the 2014 “gay cake row” in Belfast when a bakery refused to supply a cake decorated with the words “support gay marriage”.
Ashers Bakers won their case in the Supreme Court in 2018 on the grounds that no one could be forced to promote a belief they profoundly disagreed with.
Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) threw out the case made against the Christian couple who refused to bake a cake with a message in support of gay marriage in what Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, said was a “victory for freedom of expression and belief”.