Christian B&B owners lose court bid

Peter and Hazelmary Bull. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Christian guest house owners who were ordered to pay damages after turning away a gay couple have lost a fight in the UK's highest court.

Peter Bull, 74, and his wife Hazelmary, 69, had asked the Supreme Court to decide whether their decision to refuse to let Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy stay in a double room constituted sex discrimination under equality legislation.

Five Supreme Court justices ruled against them today after analysing the case at a hearing in London in October.

The couple, who run a guest house in Marazion, Cornwall, had previously lost fights in a County Court and the Court of Appeal.

The Chymorvah Hotel in Marazion. Credit: ITV News West Country

In 2011 a judge at Bristol County Court concluded that the Bulls acted unlawfully and ordered them to pay a total of £3,600 damages.

In 2012 the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the Bulls following a hearing in London.

The couple had asked the Supreme Court to overrule the Court of Appeal.

The Bulls said they thought that any sex outside marriage was "a sin" - and denied discriminating against Mr Hall and Mr Preddy.

They said their decision was founded on a "religiously-informed judgment of conscience".

Mr Hall and Mr Preddy said they were victims of discrimination.

Steven Preddy (left) and Martyn Hall. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Sexual orientation is a core component of a person's identity which requires fulfilment through relationships with others of the same orientation.

Homosexuals "were long denied the possibility of fulfilling themselves through relationships with others"

This was an affront to their dignity as human beings which our law has now (some would say belatedly) recognised.

Homosexuals can enjoy the same freedom and the same relationships as any others. But we should not under-estimate the continuing legacy of those centuries of discrimination, persecution even, which is still going on in many parts of the world.

It is no doubt for that reason that Strasbourg requires 'very weighty reasons' to justify discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

It is for that reason that we should be slow to accept that prohibiting hotel-keepers from discriminating against homosexuals is a disproportionate limitation on their right to manifest their religion.

– Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court

Obviously, we are deeply disappointed and saddened by the outcome.

We are just ordinary Christians who believe in the importance of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Our B&B is not just our business, it's our home. All we have ever tried to do is live according to our own values, under our own roof.

These beliefs are not based on hostility to anyone - we certainly bear no ill will to Steven and Martyn. Our policy is based on our sincere beliefs about marriage.

Britain ought to be a country of freedom and tolerance, but it seems religious beliefs must play second fiddle to the new orthodoxy of political correctness.

– Hazelmary Bull

What this case shows is that the powers of political correctness have reached all the way to the top of the judicial tree. So much so that even the Supreme Court dare not say anything against gay rights.

Writing the main opinion in the ruling, Lady Hale effectively said gay rights are almost untouchable because of the rulings by European judges.

Combine that with gay marriage, and it's a recipe for all sorts of threats to people who believe in traditional marriage.

This ruling is another slap in the face to Christians, and shows that the elite institutions are saturated with a liberal mindset which cares little about religious freedom.

– Mike Judge, Christian Institute spokesman

The courts have been very clear throughout this long-running case that same-sex couples should not be subjected to discrimination when accessing services.

This is what Parliament intended when it approved the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations and then passed the Equality Act 2010, well aware that gay men and lesbians have long suffered discrimination when seeking to stay away from home as a couple.

If Mr Preddy and Mr Hall were hotel keepers who had refused a room to Mr and Mrs Bull, because they were Christians, or because they were an opposite sex couple, the commission would have been just as ready to support Mr and Mrs Bull in their claim.

Each of these parties has the same right to be protected against discrimination by the other.

– Wendy Hewitt, deputy legal director, Equality and Human Rights Commission