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UK: Supreme Court rules against Christian B&B owners

Couple who denied accommodations to gay couple 'saddened' by judgment

The British Supreme Court has ruled against Christian B&B owners who denied gay couple Steven Preddy (left) and Martyn Hall accommodations in 2008. Credit: bristol247.com

The British Supreme Court has ruled against Christian bed-and-breakfast owners who denied accommodations to a gay couple because of their policy of prohibiting unmarried couples from sharing rooms, the BBC reports.

According to the report, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who refused to let Steven Preddy and his civil partner, Martyn Hall, stay in a double bedroom in their Cornwall business and home in 2008, failed to convince a county court and the Court of Appeal that they had not acted unlawfully in rejecting the same-sex couple. The Bulls then appealed to the Supreme Court, which also ruled that they had discriminated against Hall and Preddy.

The Bulls, who say they are "saddened" by the latest ruling, have maintained that they are living in accordance with their values, which include a belief in marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The ruling notes that an online booking form for the Bulls' Chymorvah Private Hotel stated that "out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only." Preddy did not see the rule as he made the booking by phone, while Mrs Bull did not ask whether the booking was for a man and wife, the judgment notes.

In the ruling, Justice Lady Hale says she has "the greatest difficulty in seeing how discriminating between a married and a civilly partnered person can be anything other than direct discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation." 

She adds, "When it came to denying a double bed to Mr Preddy and Mr Hall, which they would have given to a heterosexual married couple, Mr and Mrs Bull were not only applying the criterion that they were unmarried. They were applying a criterion that their legal relationship was not that of one man and one woman, in other words a criterion indistinguishable from sexual orientation. They would undoubtedly (as their revised policy makes clear) have denied a double bed to a same sex couple who were married under some foreign law which allows it (and would do once same sex marriage becomes law in the United Kingdom)."

The arguments of the four other justices are also contained in the ruling.

Disappointed supporters of the Bulls, including the Christian Institute, say the Supreme Court's Nov 27 decision is an indication that political correctness has found its way "to the top of the judicial tree."

Gay Star News says it's not certain whether the B&B couple plan to take their fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent, Robert Pigott, offers a brief analysis of the ruling in a sidebar.