Christian owners of a hotel in Cornwall who banned a gay couple from staying have lost their final battle in UK courts for legal backing for their guest selection policy.
The Supreme Court unanimously rejected Peter and Hazelmary Bull’s appeal that their right to express their religious beliefs had been violated.
The Bulls have a policy at their hotel, listed on their online reservation form, that double rooms are only available to “straight married couples.”
The case was originally brought by Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, a gay couple, whose reservation was refused in September 2008.
The Supreme Court justices said that while the rights of the Bulls under the European Convention on Human Rights to manifest their religion are in question, it was justifiable and proportionate to limit them in order to protect the rights of others.
Delivering her judgment, Vice President of the Supreme Court Lady Hale said: “Sexual orientation is a central part of a person’s identity which requires fulfillment through relationships with others. people of the same orientation.
Homosexuals, she added, “have long been deprived of the opportunity to flourish in relationships with others … It was an affront to their dignity as human beings that our law now has (some would say belatedly). ) recognized.
“Gay people can enjoy the same freedom and relationships as others. But we should not underestimate the continuing legacy of centuries of discrimination, and even persecution, which still continue in many parts of the world. “
There was no question of replacing the legal oppression of one community with the legal oppression of another, she argued. “If Mr. Preddy and Mr. Hall ran a hotel that denied Mr. and Mrs. Bull a double room, either because of their Christian beliefs or because of their sexual orientation, they would find themselves in the same situation as Mr. . and Mrs. Bull meet again. “
After the ruling, Hazelmary Bull said: “We are deeply disappointed and saddened by the outcome. We are just ordinary Christians who believe in the importance of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
“Our B&B is not just our business, it’s our home. All we’ve always tried to do is live by our own values, under our own roof.
“These beliefs are not based on hostility towards anyone – we certainly have no grudges against Steven and Martyn. Our policy is based on our sincere beliefs about marriage.
“Britain should be a country of freedom and tolerance, but it seems religious beliefs need to play the second fiddle behind the new orthodoxy of political correctness.
“We appealed to the Supreme Court to introduce a little more balance in the treatment of the competing rights of sexual orientation and religious freedom. Somehow we have to find a way to allow different beliefs to coexist in our society. But the judges avoided that big problem and reinforced the idea that gay rights should take precedence over all else.
“What does this mean for other people in Britain who believe in traditional marriage – not just Christians, but Muslims, Jews, people of all faiths and none? “
Mike Judge, a spokesperson for the Christian Institute who supported the Bulls’ appeal, said: “What this case shows is that the powers of political correctness have reached the top of the judicial tree. So much so that even the court dares not say anything against gay rights.
“Lady Hale has effectively declared that gay rights are almost untouchable because of the decisions of European judges. This decision is another slap in the face for Christians and shows that the institutions of the elite are saturated with a liberal mindset. who cares little about religious freedom.
“Parliament must reform the law to allow for a more reasonable approach that balances competing rights. Otherwise, Christianity will become the creed that dares not pronounce its name.”
But Wendy Hewitt, deputy legal director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, welcomed the decision. “The courts have been very clear throughout this long-standing case that same-sex couples should not be discriminated against when accessing services,” she said.
“This is what Parliament wanted by approving the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulation and then passing the 2010 Equality Act, well aware that gays and lesbians have long been discriminated against when they sought to stay away from home as a couple. Each of these parties has the same right to be protected against the discrimination of the other.
Phil Allen, partner at Weightmans law firm, said: “When characteristics protected by equality law come into conflict, employers and ultimately the courts are faced with a balancing act. hard. The judgment reinforces the message that no individual can insist on manifesting their religious beliefs, whether in a business or employment context, where the rights of others may be affected. “