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Guesthouse owners who refused civil partners a room launch case in Supreme Court

The owners of a Cornish guesthouse who hit the headlines when they refused a double room to a gay couple have a launched an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Peter and Hazelmary Bull argue that their action did not constitute unlawful sex discrimination and insist they were merely honouring their religious beliefs.

The couple, who run a hotel in Marazion, close to the tip of Cornwall, turned away civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy in September 2008. The couple ,from Bristol, had booked a double room the previous day but when they arrived they were told they could not take the room because doubles were only available to married couples.

The highly religious couple were subsequently taken to Bristol County Court and ordered to pay £3,600 in damages, the BBC reports. They then took their case to the Court of Appeal but the case was dismissed.

Representing the couple in their Supreme Court case, Aiden O’Neill QC claimed people with traditional religious beliefs were now marginalised by society and, in any clash between beliefs and rights, the law should respect plurality.

The Bulls had made a “religiously-informed judgment of conscience”, he told the court.

“They believe the Bible to be God’s word, which reveals God’s perfect standards. They take this responsibility very seriously and always strive to keep their consciences clear before God.”

If the law forced them to provide double rooms to who were an opposite sex married couple, they would be forced to close their hotel in order to stay faithful to their religious beliefs, he said.

The refusal had been discrimination, said Robin Allen QC for Mr Preddy and Mr Hall. The civil partners had “received less favourable treatment, compared to an opposite-sex couple who are married”.

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  1. Luke says:

    I find this one difficult, even though I think all religion is hokum I also think people must have the right to believe whatever they want – at the same time it seems unfair to gay partners that they cannot visit a hotel without all this aggravation.

    Ultimately I figure that the hotel owners need to accommodate them, but it is all very unfortunate.

  2. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    Tjis one will for sure be a high profile case…probably a lot of media attention.

  3. Andrew says:

    The world would not come to an end if such of the few remaining non-chain hoteliers as are people like the Bulls were allowed to say on their websites that double rooms were for married opposite sex couples only and mean it. Would it?

  4. Luke says:

    No Andrew, it wouldn’t – but here’s the problem – if you took the words “married opposite sex couples” and replaced it with “whites” would you think that acceptable ? Why would the world be more likely to come to an end ?

    I don’t see a way round this even though I understand that they have religious views.

  5. Stitchedup says:

    A difficult one, how would the Bulls feel if they had a gay son and he was refused a hotel room with his partner? People don’t choose to be gay, it is a natural consequence of being born.

    However, I will admit that I’m uncomfortable with overt, in your face homosexual behaviour; so I have some sympathy with the Bulls. I guess this is simply because I’m a straight, heterosexual man or am I a hypocrite?

  6. u6c00 says:

    If I remember the case correctly, their defence was not that the couple were of the same sex, but that they were not married. I recall they said that non married couples of opposite sex would have received the same treatment. I’m keen to know, in this age of gay marriage, how a married same sex couple would be treated by the Bulls now.

  7. Stitchedup says:

    U6C00, it appears you’re correct. My mistake.

  8. Andrew says:

    Luke: Race and marital status don’t compare. You choose the latter.

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