Appeal Denied: Christian B&B Owners Must Pay Gay Couple
A British appeals court ruled that Christian bed and breakfast owners have to pay a gay couple nearly $5,700 in damages for turning them away based on sexual orientation.
In September 2008, owners of the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Cornwall, England, refused to allow gay couple, Steve Preddy and Martyn Hall, to share a double bed. Peter and Hazelmary Bull claim they turned away the men because they believe unmarried couples should not participate in sexual acts and not because they are homosexuals, EDGE reported. Although the men are not technically married, they are in a civil partnership.
A Bristol County Court judge, however, found that the Bulls did discriminate against the couple because they were gay, Pink News reported. The owners appealed the case at the Court of Appeal in London.
Robin Allen, who represented Preddy and Hall said, "The restriction operates to confer a benefit only on married persons and no others. For [the hoteliers’] purposes this only means heterosexual persons. For this reason alone it is directly discriminatory."
The three-panel judge upheld the original judge’s decision that the Bulls were breaking the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which makes it illegal to discriminate against sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities, services, education and public functions.
"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," Lady Justice Rafferty said.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which supported Preddy and Hall, applauded the court’s ruling.
"I have genuine sympathy for Mr and Mrs Bull, as their beliefs are clearly strongly held," ERCH’s legal director, John Wadham said. "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."
Christian groups, such as the Christian Institute, which backed the Bulls’ appeal, criticized the decision, the UK newspaper the Guardian reported.
"Not everyone will agree with their 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," Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute said. "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.
"We urge parliament to revisit the Equality Act and redress the imbalance between gay rights and religious rights. Religious rights seem to come last whenever there’s a clash."
In a similar incident, the owner of a Swiss bed and breakfast allegedly would not allow same-sex couple, Michael Black and John Morgan, stay at her inn. Susanne Wilkinson said that it was "against her convictions" to allow men to share the same room despite Britain’s goods and services anti-discrimination laws, EDGE reported.
Black said, "when we got out of the car she was immediately distant and unfriendly and then she said, ’It’s a double room,’ and we said, ’Yes.’ She said, ’It’s a large double bed in a double room,’ and we said, ’Yes,’ and then she said it was against her convictions to let us stay."
The couple told Wilkinson about Britain’s anti-discrimination laws but she still refused to accommodate the men.
"They gave me no prior warning and I couldn’t offer them another room as I was fully booked," Wilkinson told the press. "I don’t see why I should change my mind and my beliefs I’ve held for years just because the Government should force it on me."
"We were very shocked, and of course angry, that it happened. Neither of us has ever experienced homophobia before and I have been out since 1974," Black said. "We felt we were treated like lepers and not fit to be under the same roof as her."