Christian hoteliers pay damages after discriminating against gay couple

By staff writers
19 Jan 2011

A gay couple have been awarded £3,600 after successfully suing Christian hotel owners who refused to let them stay in a double room.

Peter and Hazelmary Bull broke the law when they denied Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy a room at the Chymorvah Hotel, near Penzance, in September 2008, said Judge Andrew Rutherford.

The Bulls had denied discriminating against the couple because they were gay, saying they had a long-standing policy of banning all unmarried couples from sharing a bed, founded on their Christian beliefs.

But the judge rejected their argument in a written judgement at Bristol County Court. He said: "The only conclusion which can be drawn is that the refusal to allow them to occupy the double room which they had booked was because of their sexual orientation... and that this is direct discrimination."

Martyn Hall and his partner Steven Preddy said they were extremely pleased with the outcome.

"We checked that the hotel would allow us to bring our dog, but it didn't even cross our minds that in 2008 we would have to check whether we would be welcome ourselves," they declared.

"We're really pleased that the judge has confirmed what we already know - that in these circumstances our civil partnership has the same status in law as a marriage between a man and a woman, and that, regardless of each person's religious beliefs, no one is above the law."

The judge granted the Bulls leave to appeal. They are considering their options.

"This is a victory for equality and a defeat for discrimination. Although people are entitled to their religious beliefs, no one should be above the law. People of faith should not be permitted to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against other people," said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

"Peter and Hazelmary were offering a service to the public by providing hotel accommodation. Everyone who provides services to the public should do so without discrimination. That's the law. People of faith cannot legitimately claim exemption from equality laws that apply to everyone else.

"If the court had ruled that the Bulls were allowed to ban gay couples from sleeping together in the same room, it would have opened the floodgates to a deluge of similar religious-motivated claims for exemption from the equality laws.

"We could have ended up with some Jewish supermarket workers demanding the right to not handle pork, Muslim restaurant staff refusing to serve alcohol and Christian solicitors declining to represent gay or cohabiting heterosexual couples.

"Businesses would grind to a halt, and social cohesion decline, as religious fundamentalists of all hues claimed the right to discriminate on faith grounds. Our equality laws would soon be in shreds. Discrimination would become rampant again. It would be hugely damaging to harmonious community relations," said Mr Tatchell.

[Ekk/3]

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