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Christian Guest Owners lose Appeal

The Christian owners of a guesthouse who refused a double room to a gay couple have lost their appeal to the Supreme Court.

Hazelmary and Peter Bull refused to let Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, a homosexual couple in a civil partnership, stay together in a double room.

The Bulls own a private guest house in Cornwall. They are committed Christians who believe that sex otherwise than in a traditional heterosexual marriage is sinful.

They operate a policy at their hotel, stated on their booking form, though not conveyed to the pair when the telephoned to book a room, that double bedrooms are available only to ‘heterosexual married couples’.

In March 2009, supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Hall and Preddy brought proceedings against the Bulls under the Equality Act (sexual orientation) Regulations 2007, arguing that the refusal to provide them with a double room was unlawful.

In 2011, a judge at Bristol County Court ruled that the Bulls had acted unlawfully and ordered them to pay the couple £3,600 damages. The Court of Appeal upheld the ruling and today the Supreme Court dismissed the appellants’ further appeal.

The case was heard by Lords Neuberger, Kerr, Hughes, Toulson and Lady Hale. They ruled the Bulls’ policy constituted direct discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

The appellants accepted that their policy constituted indirect discrimination, but argued that it was justified. The Supreme Court disagreed.

The court also held that the appellants’ rights under Article 9(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the manifestation of religious belief, are engaged. But they said interference with those rights is justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim – the protection of the rights and freedoms of people such as the respondents.

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