British hoteliers Hazelmary and Peter Bull, despite twice having faced a court rule that they discriminated by denying a double room to a gay couple at their B&B in Cornwall, have indicated that they will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and may even take their case as far as the European Court of Human Rights.
Mrs Bull said: “I feel that the law has gone too far. Certainly Pete and I are ready to see if we can achieve some sort of result whereby two lifestyles can live alongside each other.
“We need to apply for leave to appeal, because that wasn’t given at the last court hearing. If we get it we could take it to the Supreme Court. If we don’t get leave to appeal then I understand we would possibly take it to Brussels.”
Mike Judge, from the Christian Institute, said: “I think this is a leading case, and it may even go to the European Court of Human Rights if we are not successful at the Supreme Court.”
Mr Judge said Mr and Mrs Bull had applied their policy to all unmarried couples, not just same-sex couples.
Dr Michael Halls, from the South West-based charity the Intercom Trust, which works with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, said: “[Mr and Mrs Bull] were discriminating against marriage and civil partnership.
“I think the conflict of rights in this case will be decided against them,” he added.
The British Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision, declared in February that a Bristol judge was right in ruling that the Bulls, owners of the Chymorvah Private Hotel near Penzance, Cornwall, had indeed violated the rights of gay couple Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy when they denied the couple a double room, citing that Britiain’s equality laws mean that while the hoteliers are allowed their private religious beliefs, those beliefs are not suitable justification for discrimination in the public sector.
The Bulls had refused a double room to Hall and Preddy based on a strict policy that double rooms would only be available for married couples. This, they claimed, was not about the couple’s sexual orientation as, they said, they would have denied the room to an unmarried straight couple in the same way — though they admitted at the trial that they did think being in a gay relationship is a sin.
Gay couple Hall and Preddy, who are civil partners, claimed that this was a de facto ban on same-sex couples as they can not currently marry in Britain and therefore are automatically excluded by the Bulls’ rooming policy.
Bristol Judge Andrew Rutherford agreed, concluding last year that while the law must be seen to uphold the rights of religious freedom of speech, the right to manifest one’s religious views is not absolute and must be limited in the public sphere “to protect the rights and freedoms” of the public.
The ruling affirmed the Bulls had the right to hold their own private views, but as soon as those views were introduced into hotel policy they became subject to equality laws and as such were in breach of Britain’s Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations of 2007 which says civil partnerships – recognized in Britain under the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 – must be treated the same as marriages.
As such, Mr and Mrs Bull were ordered to pay a total of £3,600 to Hall and Preddy.
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