Bristol gay couple win legal case against Cornwall hotel
A gay couple have won their discrimination claim against the owners of a hotel in a landmark judgment today in the Bristol County Court.
Civil partners Martyn Hall and Steve Preddy sued the owners of the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Cornwall on the grounds they were not allowed to share a double room because they were a gay couple.
The hotel owners, Peter and Hazel Bull, are devout Christians who do not allow couples who are not married to share double rooms because they do not believe in sex before marriage.
Mr and Mrs Bull maintained that their refusal to accommodate civil partners in a double room was not to do with sexual orientation but "everything to do with sex". The owners said the restriction applied equally to heterosexual couples who are not married.
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Judge Rutherford ruled that the hotel had directly discriminated against the couple on the ground of their sexual orientation and awarded them compensation of £1,800 each.
The judge's ruling in one of the first legal cases taken under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 means that people in civil partnerships will have greater protection from discrimination.
In the ruling the judge said the right of the defendants to manifest their religion is not absolute and "can be limited to protect the rights and freedoms of the claimants". He described the Sexual Orientation Regulations as a "necessary and proportionate intervention by the state to protect the rights of others".
The judge also quashed the idea, suggested in some newspaper reports prior to the case and during the course of the hearing, that Mr Preddy and Mr Hall only booked the hotel at the instigation of the Stonewall organisation.
John Wadham, Group Director, Legal, at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:"The right of an individual to practice their religion and live out their beliefs is one of the most fundamental rights a person can have, but so is the right not to be turned away by a hotel just because you are gay.
"The law works both ways. Hotel owners would similarly not be able to turn away people whose religious beliefs they disagreed with."
Mr Preddy and Mr Hall said they were extremely pleased with the outcome of the case.