I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a hotel, I took the view that if it's a question of somebody who's doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn't come into their own home.
His fellow Conservative Iain Dale puts the reasoned case against allowing some discrimination in the provision of goods and services well. Christians should have equal rights not to be discriminated against, along with members of any faith group, but demanding a faith-based right to discriminate is likely to prove incompatible with equality before the law.
And Grayling's comments are not going to make any substantive difference, because we now have a broad and pretty settled consensus against the type of discrimination he seems to favour. Indeed that can be seen in how Grayling's comments, again perhaps unconsciously, directly echo the heated debates within the party over forty years ago, when anti-discrimination legislation was first proposed by the Labour government of the day.
With his party deeply and publically split, the then Shadow Home Secretary Quintin Hogg (later Lord Halisham) proposed a distinction about who could discriminate of which his successor in the post 42 years on offers a remarkable echo. As Enoch Powell's biographer Simon Heffer reports in his magisterial biography 'Like the Roman':
Hogg, in discussing what he thought was a flawed bill, said there needed to be a distinction between individuals who, say, chose not to sell their house to a black man because of feeling for their neighbours, and great commercial concerns that systematically discriminated. He said he hoped to move amendments in committee.
Heffer reports that Powell's silence and refusal to say whether this "reasoned amendment" would be enough, followed later in the month by his explosive Birmingham speech, led both Hogg and Whitelaw "to regard Powell as a double-crosser on account of this meeting ... [which] set the men apart for the rest of their lives".
It is often overlooked that the immediate peg for Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech on immigration and repatriation was that the Race Relations Bill of 1968 was to come before Parliament. Powell set out why he was opposed to the principles underpinning legislation "against discrimination" while also arguing it would "risk throwing a match on to gunpowder":
As Mr Heath has put it we will have no "first-class citizens" and "second-class citizens." This does not mean that ... the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow-citizen and another or that he should be subjected to imposition as to his reasons and motive for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another.
That argument was long ago lost.
This reflects the history of progressive Conservatism which is, perhaps appropriately, rather conservative. You will very rarely find it in the vanguard of pro-equality changes. But, where other progressives make advances on equality, it is often the case that conservatives will accomodate rather than repeal these progressive advances made by others. That matters, because it does help to "ratify" and lock-in changes of this kind. (Evelyn Waugh complained that the problem with the Conservative party was that it had not turned the clock back a single second).
As a matter of policy and law, the anti-discrimination principle has surely now been pretty much settled for decades.
Grayling's views are legitimately being challenged to query the depth of change in the Tory party, and they will put pressure on his colleagues' confidence in the Shadow Home Secretary, but they are surely going to make no substantive policy difference at all.
But, having overstated the case against Tory ppc Stephen Parkinson yesterday, given the context of his remarks about gay assimilation in arguing against legislating for equality in 2002, I would much rather highlight the good news that Grayling's somewhat confused comments now represent what has become a rather fringe view.
A small minority agree with him: they can express their democratic view and try to reopen the argument. Dale's argument is challenged by The Devil's Kitchen, a libertarian and slightly sweary blog whose author Chris Mounsey has also become the leader of the UK Libertarian Party, which will attempt to appeal to the voters in a handful of constituencies in a few weeks time.
They will surely find that they have very little support in seeking to overturn the settled consensus against discrimination.