Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the Christian owners of a B&B have been ordered by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court to pay damages to a gay couple who they turned away from their inn. Their decision to refuse to let Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy stay in a double room constituted sex discrimination under equality legislation.
The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed their appeal. Lady Hale, Lord Kerr and Lord Toulson held that the Appellants’ policy constituted direct discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. On point (ii) indirect discrimination the Court unanimously held that if (as Lord Neuberger and Lord Hughes consider) the Appellants’ policy constitutes indirect discrimination, it is not justified.
The couple has previously lost fights in a County Court and the Court of Appeal.
The Bulls said they thought that any sex outside marriage was ”a sin” – and denied discriminating against Hall and Preddy, calling it a ”religiously-informed judgment of conscience”.
Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said: “Sexual orientation is a core component of a person’s identity which requires fulfilment through relationships with others of the same orientation.” Homosexuals “were long denied the possibility of fulfilling themselves through relationships with others”, she said, adding: “This was an affront to their dignity as human beings which our law has now (some would say belatedly) recognised.
“Homosexuals can enjoy the same freedom and the same relationships as any others. But we should not under-estimate the continuing legacy of those centuries of discrimination, persecution even, which is still going on in many parts of the world.
“It is no doubt for that reason that Strasbourg requires ‘very weighty reasons’ to justify discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
“It is for that reason that we should be slow to accept that prohibiting hotel-keepers from discriminating against homosexuals is a disproportionate limitation on their right to manifest their religion. If Mr Preddy and Mr Hall ran a hotel which denied a double room to Mr and Mrs Bull, whether on the grounds of their Christian beliefs or on the grounds of their sexual orientation, they would find themselves in the same situation that Mr and Mrs Bull find themselves today.”
“A married couple would have been permitted by Mr and Mrs Bull to occupy a double bedded room in their hotel. Mr Preddy and Mr Hall (who must for the purposes of regulation 3 be treated as if they were a married couple [as they were in a civil partnership]) were refused such a room.
“There can be no dispute that they were treated less favourably. Was this on the grounds of their sexual orientation? In my view, it was,” Lord Kerr ruled.