Gay ban guesthouse owners lose court appeal

 

Two Christian guesthouse owners who were ordered to pay damages after refusing to allow a gay couple to stay in a double room lost their appeal today.

The challenge by Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who run Chymorvah House in Marazion, Cornwall, was rejected by three judges in the Court of Appeal in London.

They had appealed against a conclusion by a judge at Bristol County Court that they acted unlawfully when they turned away Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy in September 2008.

Judge Andrew Rutherford ruled in January last year that the Bulls had breached equality legislation and ordered them to pay the couple a total of £3,600 damages.

The appeal judges heard that the Bulls thought any sex outside marriage was a "sin", but denied they had discriminated against Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, from Bristol.

Today's ruling was given by Sir Andrew Morritt, Chancellor of the High Court, Lord Justice Hooper and Lady Justice Rafferty.

Mr Bull, 72, and Mrs Bull, who is in her late 60s, were not in court for the announcement.

During the hearing of the appeal in November, James Dingemans QC, for the Bulls, argued that the couple were entitled to hold "outdated" religious beliefs.

He said the Bulls operated a policy directed towards sexual practice not sexual orientation and said they believed that permitting unmarried people - whether heterosexual or homosexual - to share a double bed involved them in "promoting a sin".

Mr Dingemans said the Bulls were not trying to undermine the rights of Mr Hall and Mr Preddy and judges had to carefully balance all human rights involved.

Robin Allen QC, for Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, argued that his clients had a "lawful civil partnership" and the guesthouse should have been "open" to them in the same way it was to heterosexual married couples.

The judges heard that the Bulls were being backed by the Christian Institute and Mr Hall and Mr Preddy by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

After the ruling, John Wadham, the Commission's group legal director, said: "I have genuine sympathy for Mr and Mrs Bull, as their beliefs are clearly strongly held.

"We believe that this case will help people to better understand the law around freedom of religion.

"When offering a service, people cannot use their beliefs - religious or otherwise - to discriminate against others.

"As the discrimination ruling has been upheld, Mr Preddy and Mr Hall are entitled to the compensation ordered by the county court. However, the Commission has no intention of enforcing its entitlement to legal costs."

Simon Calvert, of the the Christian Institute, which funded Mr and Mrs Bull's appeal, said: "Peter and Hazelmary have been penalised for their beliefs about marriage.

"Not everyone will agree with Peter and Hazelmary's beliefs, but a lot of people will think it is shame that the law doesn't let them live and work according to their own values under their own roof.

"Something has gone badly wrong with our equality laws when good, decent people like Peter and Hazelmary are penalised but extremist hate preachers are protected."

The three judges upheld the finding of Judge Rutherford that the Bulls had directly discriminated against Mr Hall and Mr Preddy in a case Sir Andrew described as being of importance to the parties "and generally".

The Bulls denied discrimination, either directly or indirectly.

Lady Justice Rafferty said that for many years the couple operated a policy of restricting the provision of double beds to married couples.

The Bulls argued that "since the restriction engages sexual practice not sexual orientation, as applied it affects those of any sexual orientation and practice who are not married".

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."

The judge pointed out that Mr Hall and Mr Preddy "were at pains throughout to acknowledge that the appellants' principled stand was intended to bear witness to their interpretation of Christianity".

Argument on both sides "recognised that co-existence in society requires mutual acceptance of differing views and standards and each side readily bowed to the strongly held views of the other".

The judge concluded that the extent to which the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 limited the manifestation of the Bulls' religious beliefs, "the limitations are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".

She said: "Whilst the appellants' beliefs about sexual practice may not find the acceptance that once they did, nevertheless a democratic society must ensure that their espousal and expression remain open to those who hold them.

"It would be unfortunate to replace legal oppression of one community (homosexual couples) with legal oppression of another (those sharing the appellants' beliefs); rather there should be achieved respect for the broad protection granted to religious freedom ..."

Any interference with religious rights must satisfy the test of "anxious scrutiny".

She added: "However, in a pluralist society it is inevitable that from time to time, as here, views, beliefs and rights of some are not compatible with those of others.

"As I have made plain, I do not consider that the appellants face any difficulty in manifesting their religious beliefs, they are merely prohibited from so doing in the commercial context they have chosen."

Sir Andrew said: "The judge (county court) concluded that the restriction constituted discrimination and was on the grounds of sexual orientation.

"Mr and Mrs Bull contend that this conclusion is wrong because they apply the restriction to persons of heterosexual and homosexual orientation alike if they are not married. But ... that cannot, in my view, be a sufficient answer.

"The former may be married but the latter cannot be. It follows that the restriction is absolute in relation to homosexuals but not in relation to heterosexuals.

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

Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said: "This was the wrong decision. A number of judgments have now elevated sexual orientation rights above historic freedom of belief.

"This was never the intention of Parliament, and has no democratic mandate.

"Bed and breakfast owners have now become another category of people in the UK who will be penalised if they try to serve the public without compromising their religious beliefs.

"We are heading towards a two-tier society where only those who subscribe to this new state morality will be able to operate in the public sphere.

"With full homosexual marriage now on the horizon, protecting conscience will become more important than ever."

PA

News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Progressive Rec.

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices