UK court rules in favour of gay couple refused from hotel
Fear not, LGBT tourists to England and Wales! For today, you may tread safely.
The Court of Appeal today upheld a landmark court ruling in favour of a gay couple refused a room by the religious owners of a Cornwall hotel.
Martin Hall and Steven Preddy, civil partners, had originally successfully sued devout Christians Peter and Hazelmary Bull for sexual orientation discrimination. In 2011 Judge Andrew Rutherford held that the refusal to admit the same-sex couple to their hotel three years earlier breached England’s equality legislation. The defendants were ordered to pay the couple £3,600 in damages.
The appeal by the owners of Chymorvah House in Marazion, Cornwall, was rejected by three judges in the court of appeal in London. The Bulls had claimed that they regarded any sexual activity outside of marriage to be a sin, and denied any discrimination on their part. They claimed that the rules of their accommodation, based on their Christian faith, was that no unmarried couples could share a double room.
The Court of Appeal agreed with original ruling that the hotel’s rule directly discriminated against Preddy and Hall, and that the couple was subjected to differential treatment because of their sexual orientation as it is not possible for a same-sex couple to marry in the United Kingdom.
The appeal judges held that religious belief does not offer an exemption from discrimination laws which apply to running a business.
John Wadham, Group Director Legal of Equality and Human Rights Commission, which acted on behalf of the successful side in the appeal, said, “I have genuine sympathy for Mr and Mrs Bull, as their beliefs are clearly strongly held. 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.
“As the discrimination ruling has been upheld, Mr Preddy and Mr Hall are entitled to the compensation ordered by the County Court. However the Commission has no intention of enforcing its entitlement to legal costs.”
“We welcome this important decision – there is no place for discrimination of gay and lesbian travellers in the 21st Century,” says Simon Forrester founder of Further Afield, whose company curates a hand-picked collection of LGBT-friendly accommodation around the world.
He fears, however, that this case may have undermined confidence of LGBT tourists. “We know from our own research that many gay and lesbian travellers are worried about the welcome they will receive at their holiday accommodation.”