Christian hoteliers who turned away gay couple see business slump

by Janet Harmer , Wednesday 15th February 2012 17:28

The Christian couple who lost their appeal against a ruling that their policy of restricting double rooms to married couples discriminated against a gay couple have seen business at their Cornish hotel slump.

Hazelmary Bull said that occupancy at the seven-bedroom Chymorvah hotel in Marazion, which she runs with her husband Peter, fell last year to 25% from an average of 75%.

"We are very disappointed with the result of the appeal," she said. "All the way through this case we have fought for the principle to be allowed to operate the Christian lifestyle we believe in. We did not prevent the couple from sharing a room because they are gay but because they are unmarried. It is a policy we have operated for the 26 years we have been running the hotel and we have never had a problem before."

Bull claimed that she and her husband have received widespread support for their views from within the hospitality industry.

"Our business has fallen because we took the decision while fighting the case to withdraw from membership of Visit South West and as a result we have lost the right to be inspected and to be promoted via their website. All our bookings now come via our own website," she said.

In the landmark case in the High Court, three of the country's most senior judges ruled that the Bulls had acted unlawfully in turning away civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy and upheld an earlier court ruling that they must pay the pair £1,800 each in compensation.

The Bulls had originally been found guilty in January 2011 at Bristol County Court of being the first to be in breach of the 2007 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations.

Their counsel, James Dingemans QC, told the appeal that it was never the Bulls' intention to undermine the two men or "not to respect them".

He said the couple believed sexual relations outside marriage was sinful, and "that permitting unmarried persons - whether heterosexual or homosexual - to share a double bed involved them in promoting what they believed to be a sin".

He added: "The reality of the case is that they have been accused of being prejudiced against homosexuals, but they are not. They have lawfully prevented hundreds of unmarried couples sharing beds."

But the judges ruled that the Bulls had breached the law in the stance they had taken.

High Court Chancellor Sir Andrew Morritt said the Bristol County Court judge had been right to conclude that the restriction constituted discrimination and was on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Lady Justice Rafferty added : "In a pluralist society it is inevitable that from time to time, as here, views, beliefs and rights of some are not compatible with those of others. I do not consider that the appellants face any difficulty in manifesting their religious beliefs.

"They are merely prohibited from so doing in the commercial context they have chosen."

The Bulls' appeal was funded by the Christian Institute, while Hall and Preddy were funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

By Janet Harmer

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