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20
Jan

Gay couple win B&B discrimination case

A judge has ruled that the owners of a hotel who refused to allow a gay couple a double room acted unlawfully. Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy, from Bristol, attempted to reserve a double room at the Chymorvah Hotel, near Penzance, in September 2008. The hotel is run by Christian couple Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who have said that it is against their beliefs to allow unmarried couples to share bedrooms – whether heterosexual or homosexual. However, since the passing of the 2010 Equality Act, it has been illegal to discriminate against people because of their sexuality in this fashion, as in the eyes of the law, a civil partnership is the same as marriage. Therefore, the judge ruled their discrimination unlawful. Mr Preddy and Mr Hall were awarded £1,800 in damages.

“Judge Rutherford has found that our treatment was an act of direct discrimination and therefore a breach of the law,” said Mr Preddy. Mr and Mrs Bull expressed disappointment at the ruling, and are considering appealing against it. “We are obviously disappointed with the result," said Mrs Bull. “Our double-bed policy was based on our sincere beliefs about marriage, not hostility to anybody.”

The ruling was widely welcomed by supporters of equality. Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said: “We're delighted with the outcome of this test case. You can't turn away people from a hotel because they're black or Jewish and in 2011 you shouldn't be able to demean them by turning them away because they're gay either.”

The ruling was also welcomed by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM). It’s Chief Executive, Rev Sharon Ferguson, said: “This is a simple case of Equalities law being upheld. Thankfully we have laws in the UK which ensure equal treatment of all people no matter their ethnicity, sexual orientation and so on… Peter and Hazel Bull may well have sincere convictions about the nature of marriage – this ruling does not deny them these convictions. But if you are running a business you must make your services available to all without discrimination. As a Christian organisation we understand the fears of those who see religious faith being marginalised, but often this is not in fact the case. And excluding people, especially when our scriptures are full of exhortations to welcome the stranger (the one who is different from us), is no way to defend and uphold Christian values.”

Published: 20 January 2011

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