UK: Christian guesthouse owners find way to carry on banning gay couples
A Christian couple ordered to pay damages for refusing to allow a gay couple to stay at their guesthouse claim to have found a way to legally decide who they turn away – by turning their hotel into a religious respite centre.
Peter Bull and his wife Hazelmary were found to have breached equality laws when they refused to let Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy stay at their guesthouse.
A judge ordered them to pay a total of £3,600 in damages in a case which the couple said left them with the impossible task of reconciling their business with their religious beliefs.
But now the pair claim to have come up with a solution – by turning Chymorvan guesthouse in Marazion, west Cornwall, into a not-for-profit organisation catering for Christians only.
Mrs Bull said the not-for-profit organisation worked by stating in the articles of the company that anyone coming to stay here would be expected to abide by our Bible-based beliefs.
She said: "When we had the trial, there were a number of local B&Bs who said, 'we are watching this very closely because we want to be able to say no sometimes', not necessarily to that particular group of people but just on certain occasions."
The couple's defence was financed by The Christian Institute, a charity which says it believes the case could have far-reaching ramifications.
Mike Judge, spokesman for the Christian Institute, said that the couple had decided to stop offering a service to the general public and now offer it as a place for respite care for Christians.
“Guests have to be in agreement with their Christian values,” he said.
“It is the only way they thought they could pay their mortgage without sacrificing their beliefs.
“It is aimed at a niche market of people that share their beliefs including their views that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
“They are fully aware that it is going to limit their market. It is just the only way of keeping their building which is also their home and remaining faithful to their beliefs.”
Mr Bull, 72, and Mrs Bull, 67, regard any sex outside marriage as a "sin" and said they would not let the two men have a double-bedded room.
They deny either direct or indirect discrimination, arguing that their policy of restricting double beds to married couples, in accordance with their religious beliefs, was not directed to sexual orientation, but sexual practice.
The Bulls had accepted an £80-a-night double room booking, thinking Steven Preddy, 39, would be staying with his wife.
When Mr Preddy arrived with his boyfriend Mr Hall, 47, the men, from Bristol, were told that they could have two rooms, but not share one.
In January 2011, Judge Andrew Rutherford ruled at Bristol County Court that the Bulls had breached equality legislation and ordered them to pay the couple a total of £3,600 damages.
The Bulls denied that they had discriminated against Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, saying they had also barred unmarried heterosexual couples from sharing double rooms since they opened for business 25 years ago.
The couple, who then had an appeal against the original judgment quashed, are now taking their case to the Supreme Court.