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Gay Couple Win Damages Against Hotel

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10:08AM GMT 18 Jan 2011

Peter and Hazelmary Bull were breaking the law when they denied Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy a room at their hotel in Cornwall in September 2008.

Judge Andrew Rutherford made the ruling in a written judgment at Bristol County Court as he awarded the couple £1,800 each in damages.

Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, from Bristol, were seeking up to £5,000 damages claiming sexual orientation discrimination under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.

At a hearing last month, the Bulls denied the claim, saying they have a long-standing policy of banning all unmarried couples both heterosexual and gay from sharing a bed at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance.

Mr Bull, 70, and his wife, 66, said their policy, operated since they bought the hotel in 1986, is based on their beliefs about marriage and not a hostility to sexual orientation.

Mrs Bull told the court: "We accept that the Bible is the holy living word of God and we endeavour to follow it as far as we are able.

"We have a kind of routine we go through with folk. It is never our intention to offend so we try to make it as gracious and as helpful as we can."

James Dingemans QC, representing Mr and Mrs Bull, said they had been "vilified as objects of fun" in newspapers for only allowing married couples to stay in double rooms at their hotel.

He said: "The defendants respectfully submit that their policy is directed at sex and not to sexual orientation and is lawful.

"Without the protection of the law they will simply not be able to operate their business."

Hotel employee Bernie Quinn hinted that Mr Preddy and Mr Hall's booking was a set-up.

"It is not beyond the realms of possibility. I have no proof other than the phone call," he said.

Mr Preddy, 38, said he and Mr Hall, 46, had booked the hotel room over the phone and were not aware of the policy until they arrived and were told by Mr Quinn they would not be able to stay.

The semi-detached Chymorvah Private Hotel has seven rooms in total three doubles, one family room, two twins and single with the Bulls living on the ground floor.

The Bulls legal defence was supported by the Christian Institute while Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In his ruling, Judge Rutherford said that, in the last 50 years, social attitudes in Britain had changed.

"We live today in a parliamentary democracy. Our laws are made by the Queen in Parliament," the judge said.

"It is inevitable that such laws will from time to time cut across deeply held beliefs of individuals and sections of society for they reflect the social attitudes and morals prevailing at the time that they are made.

"In the last 50 years there have been many such instances - the abolition of capital punishment; the abolition of corporal punishment in schools; the decriminalisation of homosexuality and of suicide; and on a more mundane level the ban on hunting and on smoking in public places.

"All of these - and they are only examples - have offended sections of the population and in some cases cut across traditional religious beliefs.

"These laws have come into being because of changes in social attitudes. The standards and principles governing our behaviour which were unquestioningly accepted in one generation may not be so accepted in the next.

"I am quite satisfied as to the genuineness of the defendants' beliefs and it is, I have no doubt, one which others also hold.

"It is a very clear example of how social attitudes have changed over the years for it is not so very long ago that these beliefs of the defendants would have been those accepted as normal by society at large. Now it is the other way around."

Mr Preddy and Mr Hall said they were extremely pleased with the outcome of the case.

"When we booked this hotel we just wanted to do something that thousands of other couples do every weekend - take a relaxing weekend break away," they said.

"We checked that the hotel would allow us to bring our dog, but it didn't even cross our minds that in 2008 we would have to check whether we would be welcome ourselves.

"We're really pleased that the judge has confirmed what we already know - that in these circumstances our civil partnership has the same status in law as a marriage between a man and a woman, and that, regardless of each person's religious beliefs, no- one is above the law."

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of equality campaign group Stonewall, welcomed the ruling.

He said: "We're delighted with the outcome of this test case.

"You can't turn away people from a hotel because they're black or Jewish and in 2011 you shouldn't be able to demean them by turning them away because they're gay either.

"Religious freedom shouldn't be used as a cloak for prejudice.

"For the estimated £30,000 that this court case cost Mr and Mrs Bull and their supporters during the last month, Oxfam or Save the Children could have vaccinated 100,000 people against meningitis in sub-Saharan Africa.

"That would have been a more Christian way to spend their money during the festive season."

Judge Rutherford rejected one of the claims made in court that the booking had been a "set-up".

"There was a suggestion in the course of the case, and indeed in some newspaper reports prior to the case, that the defendants were 'set up' by the claimants with the assistance of an organisation such as Stonewall.

"If this were true then, while it would not of itself defeat a discrimination claim, it would very materially affect the issue of damages.

"I can see why the defendants might have thought that this was so but I am quite satisfied on the evidence of the claimants that this is not the case and, in fairness to the defendants, let me make it clear that their counsel, James Dingemans QC, did not seek to run the case on this basis."

The judge said he found that the Bulls did hold "perfectly orthodox Christian beliefs".

"I should say at this point that I have no doubt - and the point was not seriously pursued by the claimants - that the defendants genuinely hold a perfectly orthodox Christian belief in the sanctity of marriage and the sinfulness of homosexuality," he said.

"Such a belief, in my view, reaches the threshold set out in R (Williamson) v Secretary of State for Education and Employment and therefore does fall within Article 9 of the European Convention."

Judge Rutherford added: "I have found this a very difficult case, not least because the application of these regulations is an area of the law with which I have not previously had to grapple.

"I am also acutely aware of the importance of this case to both sides and the deeply held views on both sides.

"Both can legitimately claim the right under Article 8 to have their private and family life - and in the case of the defendants their home - respected.

"The claimants are a family in the eyes of the law just as much as are the married defendants.

"Both are entitled not to be discriminated against under Article 14 and the defendants have the right under Article 9 to manifest their religion or beliefs.

"At one point in the case I queried whether the running of an hotel along Christian principles could be described as manifesting one's religion but I have come to the conclusion that it can so be regarded.

"And it is clearly, in my view, the case that each side hold perfectly honourable and respectable, albeit wholly contrary, views."

Judge Rutherford said that under the Bulls rules, two friends of the same sex who are backpacking around Cornwall could not have a double room at their hotel.

"How many students over the years must have shared a double room in such circumstances?," the judge asked.

"Conversely two persons of the same sex, whether male or female, who are in a sexual relationship and who have come to Cornwall intent on a sexually fulfilling weekend may enjoy that weekend to the full in a twin bedded room.

"Putting it bluntly the hotel policy allows them so to do albeit in the confines of a smaller bed.

"It seems to me that a correct analysis of the position of the defendants is that they discriminate on the basis of marital status.

"I have reached the clear conclusion that on a proper analysis of the defendants' position on the facts of this particular case the only conclusion which can be drawn is that the refusal to allow them to occupy the double room which they had booked was because of their sexual orientation and that prima facie they fall within the provisions of Regulation 3(1) and that this is direct discrimination."

Judge Rutherford said Regulations 3(1) and 4 were not incompatible with the European Convention.

"The defendants' right to have their private and family life and their home respected is inevitably circumscribed by their decision to use their home in part as an hotel.

"The regulations do not require them to take into their home - that is the private part of the hotel which they occupy - persons such as the claimants and arguably therefore do not affect the article 8 rights of the defendants."

Judge Rutherford granted the Bulls leave to appeal his ruling, saying "there is little or no direct authority on the issues I have had to decide", meaning the case could go to the High Court and Europe.

Posted this mainly because it's an unusually detailed account of a court ruling which you don't usually see in mainstream media.

Very interesting case too. Be interesting to see if it goes to appeal.

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However, I have lost all sympathy when I discovered that the owners made their stance because they were following the word of the Lord. Quite how brainwashed, cultish, religious maniacs can find it in themselves to judge other people is hypocrisy of the highest order.

The judge should just have told all parties to simply f*ck offf and stop wasting his time with this pseudo-pc-religious-point-making shite. But of course he can't.

So it would have been ok for them to discriminate if they admited they were homophobes?

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Being an atheist I find my self in an odd spot as I think the hoteliers should not have had to go through this.

They should have been able to tell those guys to f_ck off and go somewhere else.

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Ben Summerskill, chief executive of equality campaign group Stonewall, welcomed the ruling.

He said: "We're delighted with the outcome of this test case.

"You can't turn away people from a hotel because they're black or Jewish and in 2011 you shouldn't be able to demean them by turning them away because they're gay either.

"Religious freedom shouldn't be used as a cloak for prejudice.

Interesting that he didn't choose a hotel run by Muslims for his sting operation. It would be even more interesting to speculate as to, if he had, whether the resulting court case would have been for a claim or religious discrimination (potential grey area) or racial (illegal pure and simple).

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It's wrong to refuse to do business based on prejudices, but why should anyone be forced to do business with anyone else? Neither the law nor the defendents look good to me.

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Exactly. It's a case with so many arguments based on lunacy, thst how can it be judged on?

Isn't it also a hotel's right to refuse entry. If I presented myself to The Savoy looking like I'd been sleeping rough, they'd surely be prejudiced against me.

Incidently, re gay rights, it needs to be both ways. I bet there are hotels that 'encourage' only gay patrons. Me and a couple of mates (all straight) were in Camden last summer and went in a bar that turned out to be a gay bar, although we didn;t realise it at the time. We weren't bothered and went to the bar to order drinks, at whicch point we were told in no uncertain terms that we were not going to be served as it was a bar for 'regulars' only. I.e - we weren't gay. Can I have £1800 please? We just laughed and walked out.

How could they tell, didn't you have your trousers on back to front?

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Exactly. It's a case with so many arguments based on lunacy, thst how can it be judged on?

Isn't it also a hotel's right to refuse entry. If I presented myself to The Savoy looking like I'd been sleeping rough, they'd surely be prejudiced against me.

Incidently, re gay rights, it needs to be both ways. I bet there are hotels that 'encourage' only gay patrons. Me and a couple of mates (all straight) were in Camden last summer and went in a bar that turned out to be a gay bar, although we didn;t realise it at the time. We weren't bothered and went to the bar to order drinks, at whicch point we were told in no uncertain terms that we were not going to be served as it was a bar for 'regulars' only. I.e - we weren't gay. Can I have £1800 please? We just laughed and walked out.

You told them sister

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At a hearing last month, the Bulls denied the claim, saying they have a long-standing policy of banning all unmarried couples both heterosexual and gay from sharing a bed at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance.

:lol:

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We did an hour later, when we returned to the same area with our nail bar brochures

Fixed

(obviously, that never actually happened)

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The judge should have made them spend a week with Gok Wan, just to highlight that we are all good people, in different ways.

and we can all look good naked, even with a man on your back.

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Interesting that he didn't choose a hotel run by Muslims for his sting operation. It would be even more interesting to speculate as to, if he had, whether the resulting court case would have been for a claim or religious discrimination (potential grey area) or racial (illegal pure and simple).

Sting operation :lol::lol::lol:

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We did an hour later, when we returned to the same bar with our nail bomb.

(obviously, that never actually happened)

suicide bummer

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Ultimatley, I suspect the gays chose this hotel on purpose to make a point. Just a hunch.

However, I have lost all sympathy when I discovered that the owners made their stance because they were following the word of the Lord. Quite how brainwashed, cultish, religious maniacs can find it in themselves to judge other people is hypocrisy of the highest order.

The judge should just have told all parties to simply f*ck offf and stop wasting his time with this pseudo-pc-religious-point-making shite. But of course he can't.

Pretty sure it was a set up. The claimants went on radio afterward making a point about their dog having more right to stay.

Anyway, it's not about religion - it's about personal freedom and state interference. The judge's opening comments in the first part of the article, about social attitudes, are quite creepy in my view. But he's basing it on regulations made under the human rights convention, and also admits he's a bit clueless in this area, so the issue will crop up somewhere later on. If not, it means the state will be able to deny a hotel/B&B/etc licence based on its assessment of the likely affect of an applicant's beliefs.

In the end, I agree. Waste of court time.

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A pub has a sign saying 'We refuse the right of entry' or whatever. Is a guest house any different ?

Whether you agree with this or not I think if someone has a business and doesnt want to serve someone ? Not really in their best interests but up to them. Someone will just get their money instead.

As long as there is choice I don't see the huge deal ?

All very strange. And to back up BF's point myself and mates have also been refused entry to a flamers bar. Were just heading in as we heard it was a good laugh and can be a good place to pull (Birds :D) yet not allowed as they thought we were not flamers.

Is that not discrimination too ?

Not that we were too bothered - however can you imagine if it had been the other way around. :o

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The judge followed up his ruling by basically saying that if they appealed on the grounds of religious freedom, then they may win.

So the Lord overrules the law of the land does it?

but, if the judge is aware of an argument against the ruling...why the frack did he make it?

And a contract needs to be made between consenting parties....if one party pulls out, the other might squeal a bit but should withdraw any attempt at compo as the act was not completed to fulfillment.

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A pub has a sign saying 'We refuse the right of entry' or whatever. Is a guest house any different ?

Whether you agree with this or not I think if someone has a business and doesnt want to serve someone ? Not really in their best interests but up to them. Someone will just get their money instead.

As long as there is choice I don't see the huge deal ?

All very strange. And to back up BF's point myself and mates have also been refused entry to a flamers bar. Were just heading in as we heard it was a good laugh and can be a good place to pull (Birds :D) yet not allowed as they thought we were not flamers.

Is that not discrimination too ?

Not that we were too bothered - however can you imagine if it had been the other way around. :o

You should sue

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The Bulls legal defence was supported by the Christian Institute while Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In his ruling, Judge Rutherford said that, in the last 50 years, social attitudes in Britain had changed.

All of these people are parasites and should go and get proper jobs.

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All of these people are parasites and should go and get proper jobs.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is funded by taxpayers; the Christian Institute is funded by voluntary donations. I can decide whether or not I wish to support the latter's misuse of the legal system for political posturing, but not the former's. I would therefore exclude the latter from the definition of a parasite.

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I don't see the problem. If you want to run a hotel or guest house in this country, you're not allowed to discriminate on grounds of race, sex, sexuality, age, disability etc. The God-botherers had accepted the booking (and accepted dogs) and only took the hump when they realised the couple were gay. Do the 'HRA will end life as we know it' brigade really want to go back to the days of signs with No Blacks or Irish (or Poofs)?

CCC - was it CCs you were denied entry to? I'm an old enough poof that I can actually remember when CCs was a gay bar. You have to look hard to actually find the gay boys in there nowadays. I suspect John may have denied you entry because either it was too full or you were too pished.

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission is funded by taxpayers; the Christian Institute is funded by voluntary donations. I can decide whether or not I wish to support the latter's misuse of the legal system for political posturing, but not the former's. I would therefore exclude the latter from the definition of a parasite.

It depend how the Christian Institute's donors got the money they gave, it may have been through toil or it may have been through exploitation. Either way, there is a recession on and only people who do proper productive jobs should be encouraged in their activity.

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Why is it OK, for example, to refuse me entry into a a nightclub for wearing trainers?

i was refused entry to a nite club once cos i never had a tie , went back to the car ,all i could find was some jump leads , went back to the club bouncer said whats that i said a tie , he said thats jump leads ..alright you can come in ...but dont start anything.....boom boom :lol:

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