Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Sky News: Gay Couple Win B&B Discrimination Case,_Damages_Of_%3F1,800_Each

3:35pm UK, Tuesday January 18, 2011

Sarah Gordon and Kat Higgins, Sky News Online

The Christian owners of a seaside guesthouse acted unlawfully by refusing to let a gay couple share a double bed, a judge has ruled in a landmark case.

[Click here to watch video.]

Peter and Hazelmary Bull did not allow civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy to use a double room in their Cornwall B&B because it would be "an affront to their faith".

However, a judge at Bristol County Court said the couple were breaking the law by denying the men a room.

Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were each awarded £1,800 in damages.

The couple said they were extremely happy with the outcome of the case.

"When we booked this hotel we just wanted to do something that thousands of other couples do every weekend - take a relaxing weekend break away.

"We're really pleased that the judge has confirmed what we already know - that in these circumstances our civil partnership has the same status in law as a marriage between a man and a woman, and that, regardless of each person's religious beliefs, no-one is above the law."

Peter and Hazelmary Bull

Peter and Hazelmary Bull have strict religious beliefs

Mr Preddy booked a room at the B&B in 2008 and Mrs Bull assumed he was bringing his wife with him.

When he arrived with his civil partner Mr Hall, the pair were refused a double room by the manager Bernie Quinn, who instead offered them seperate single rooms.

The Preddys used the 2007 Equality Act Regulations to bring the case to court, claiming £5,000 in damages.

A month before Mr Preddy booked to stay at the B&B, Stonewall, the gay rights organisation, had warned the Bulls that a notice on their website about who could and could not stay was illegal.

The notice read: "We have few rules but please note that out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only."

Our double-bed policy was based on our sincere beliefs about marriage, not hostility to anybody.

Hazelmary Bull

Ben Summerskill, from Stonewall, welcomed the ruling.

He said: "You can't turn away people from a hotel because they're black or Jewish and in 2011 you shouldn't be able to demean them by turning them away because they're gay either.

"Religious freedom shouldn't be used as a cloak for prejudice."

Mrs Bull has argued that even her brother and his female partner were not allowed to share a room in her house due to her strict religious beliefs.

Their legal fees were paid for by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, while Mr and Mrs Bull's defence was funded by The Christian Institute.

Outside court Mrs Bull said the result was a disappointment.

"Our double-bed policy was based on our sincere beliefs about marriage, not hostility to anybody," she said.

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