A judge has ruled today that Christian hotel owners who refused a gay couple a double room, acted unlawfully.
The owners, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, had denied Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy a room at their hotel in Cornwall in September 2008, acting in direct contravention of the law.
The couple had stated that allowing the gay couple to use a double room for the night would be “an affront to their faith”.
A written judgement was passed by Judge Andrew Rutherford at Bristol County Court. The Preddys used the 2007 Equality Act Regulations to bring the case to its conclusion and were eventually awarded £1,800 each in damages.
The couple have said they are extremely happy with the outcome of this 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. 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.”
A month before the stay at the hotel was booked, the gay rights organisation Stonewall had warned the hotel owners that a notice on their website defining who could and could not stay was illegal.
The notice read: “We have few rules but please note that out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only.”
Ben Summerskill, from Stonewall, welcomed the ruling.
He said: “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.”