Hoteliers who denied a gay couple in a civil partnership a double room will appeal a court’s decision that their actions were illegal under Britain’s equality laws.
Peter and Hazelmary Bull, self-described devout Christians and owners of the Chymorvah Private Hotel near Penzance, Cornwall, were told last week by a Bristol county court judge that they had acted unlawfully in denying gay couple Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy a double room.
Now, Mr and Mrs Bull have announced that they will appeal the ruling, an effort that will be funded by the Christian Institute which is painting the court battle as an example of gay rights muscling out religious freedom of expression.
The Christian hotel owners found to be acting illegally when they refused a gay couple a double room are to appeal against the ruling, according to supporters.
In a landmark ruling, a judge said Peter and Hazelmary Bull were breaking the law when they denied Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy a room at their hotel in Cornwall in September 2008.
Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute said “Obviously there are some finally balanced legal issues in this case and I think it is important our higher courts have the opportunity to look at this issue. A lot of Christians are looking at this case with great concern and they do believe their beliefs have been squeezed from public life.”
The Bulls had refused a double room to Hall and Preddy citing that they had a strict policy since the time of opening their home as a seven bedroom hotel that double rooms would only be available for married couples. This, they claimed, was not about the couple’s sexual orientation as they would have denied an unmarried straight couple in the same way. The Bulls also said that an oversight during the booking procedure had meant they had not made that policy clear over the phone.
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 marry and therefore are automatically excluded.
Judge Andrew Rutherford agreed, concluding that while the law must be seen to uphold the rights of religious freedom of speech, the right to manifest one’s religious views was not absolute and must be limited in the public sphere “to protect the rights and freedoms” of the public.
The ruling affirmed the couple had the right to hold their own private views, but as soon as those views were introduced into hotel policy they were 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. However, the judge granted Mr and Mrs Bull leave to appeal.
The appeal will be heard later this year.
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