Christian B&B Owners Sell; Won’t Rent to Unmarried Couples

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Thursday September 19, 2013

After a lengthy legal battle, the Christian owners of a U.K. B&B, who refused a same-sex couple a double room in 2008, say they are selling their hotel. The couple is taking their case to the Supreme Court on Oct. 9, saying that since their policy went afoul of travel company Visit England, they have been unable to get sufficient bookings.

"We were with Visit England for more than 20 years, but we had to part company because we agreed we were not going to change our policy and the government policy had already changed," Mr. Bull told BBC. We were three-star rated, but, because we're not with Visit England anymore, we're unable to go in many publications and websites [which require the Visit England ratings].

The couple, Hazelmary and Peter Bull of the Chymorvah Hotel in Marazion, turned away gay couple Steve Preddy and Martin Hall in September 2008. The Halls say they turned them away because they don't believe unmarried couples should be having sex, not because the men are homosexuals. Although the men are not married, they are in a civil partnership.

"We always ran our business in accordance with what it says in the Bible. We are responsible for what happens under our own roof, and it was important we abided by that," the Bulls told BBC.

Officials from Visit England say, however, that tourism providers "should treat everyone accessing their goods, facilities or services fairly," clarifying that equal treatment should be "regardless of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, and guard against making assumptions about the characteristics of individuals."

The case first went to court in Dec. 2010, when Preddy and Hall alleged that the Bulls were guilty of illegal discriminatory treatment. They sought $7,900 in damages.

At the time, the Bulls posited that the gay couple had "set them up" to make money from their discrimination complaint. They cited as proof a letter the inn had received from LGBT equality group Stonewall about non-discrimination protections in the law. But Stonewall told Pink News that the letter had been sent because Stonewall had received a complaint about the inn, and wanted the Bulls to be aware that the laws had changed.

In Jan. 2011, a judge at Bristol County Court ruled that the Bulls discriminated against the men based on sexual orientation, and awarded $5,700 in damages to Hall and Preddy, as reported in Pink News.

The Bulls appealed, and the case was heard at the Court of Appeal in London by Sir Andrew Morritt, Chancellor of the High Court, Lord Justice Hooper and Lady Justice Rafferty.

Robin Allen QC argued on behalf of Hall and Preddy, saying that, "The restriction operates to confer a benefit only on married persons and no others. For [the hoteliers'] purposes this only means heterosexual persons. For this reason alone it is directly discriminatory."

"We're delighted that the Court upheld the judgment," said Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill, in the article by Pink News. "The Court's decision vindicates Stonewall's hard lobbying to make it illegal to deny goods or services to someone just because they happen to be gay. That obviously includes hotel rooms for many gay holidaymakers, which can only be a good thing in a Jubilee year."

But the Christian Institute, which funded the Bulls' appeal, disagreed, saying the couple was penalized for their views about marriage.

"Peter and Hazelmary have been penalised for their beliefs about marriage," spokesperson Simon Calvert told Pink News. "Not everyone will agree with [thier] beliefs, but a lot of people will think it is shame that the law doesn't let them live and work according to their own values under their own roof."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.