Christian hotel couple to appeal over ruling

The Christian owners of a Cornwall hotel found to be acting illegally when they refused a gay couple a double room are to appeal against the ruling, supporters have said.

In a landmark ruling, a judge said Peter and Hazelmary Bull were breaking the law when they denied Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy a room at their hotel in September 2008.

Judge Andrew Rutherford also ordered the Bulls to pay the Bristol-based gay couple £1,800 each in damages. However, in making the ruling at Bristol County Court last week, the judge also granted the couple leave to appeal.

The Newcastle-based Christian Institute funded their defence and it is believed legal bills have cost £45,000 so far.

Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, told ITV's West Country Tonight: "Obviously there are some finally balanced legal issues in this case and I think it is important our higher courts have the opportunity to look at this issue. A lot of Christians are looking at this case with great concern and they do believe their beliefs have been squeezed from public life."

It is expected that the appeal will be heard at the Court of Appeal later this year.

Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were seeking up to £5,000 damages claiming sexual orientation discrimination under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.

The Bulls denied the claim saying they have a long-standing policy of banning all unmarried couples both heterosexual and gay from sharing a bed at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance.

Mr Bull, 70, and his wife, 66, said their policy, operated since they bought the hotel in 1986, is based on their beliefs about marriage and not a hostility to sexual orientation.

Mr Preddy, 38, said he and Mr Hall, 46, had booked the hotel room over the phone and were not aware of the policy until they arrived and were told by Mr Quinn they would not be able to stay.