Cornwall guesthouse owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull win right to appeal over gay couple ruling

 

The Christian owners of a Cornwall guesthouse who refused to allow a gay couple to stay in a double-bedded room have won permission to take their case to the Supreme Court.

Earlier this year Court of Appeal judges dismissed a challenge brought by Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who run Chymorvah House in Marazion, against a ruling that they breached equality legislation when they turned away Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy in September 2008.

The Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, has now decided to hear their case.

The appeal court upheld the finding of Judge Andrew Rutherford at Bristol County Court in January last year that the Bulls had directly discriminated against the couple - who were awarded a total of £3,600 damages.

Mr Bull, 72, and Mrs Bull, who is in her late 60s, regard any sex outside marriage as a "sin".

They denied either direct or indirect discrimination and argued that their policy of restricting double beds to married couples, in accordance with their religious beliefs, was not directed to sexual orientation, but sexual practice.

Dismissing their appeal last February, Sir Andrew Morritt, Chancellor of the High Court, sitting in London with Lord Justice Hooper and Lady Justice Rafferty, said that the restriction was "absolute" in relation to homosexuals but not in the case of heterosexuals.

"In those circumstances it must constitute discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Such discrimination is direct," he said.

Lady Justice Rafferty said a homosexual couple "cannot comply with the restriction because each party is of the same sex and therefore cannot marry".

She said: "The criterion at the heart of the restriction, that the couple should be married, is necessarily linked to the characteristic of an heterosexual orientation."

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