Gay snub Cornish B&B owners lose Supreme Court appeal

Hazelmary Bull: "I'm not just disappointed for ourselves, I'm disappointed in them [the judges]"

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The Christian owners of a guesthouse who were ordered to pay damages for turning away a gay couple have lost their UK Supreme Court fight.

Hazelmary and Peter Bull refused to let civil partners Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall stay in a double room at Chymorvah House in Marazion in Cornwall in 2008.

The couple, who had already lost cases at Bristol County Court and the Court of Appeal, said they were "saddened".

Mr and Mrs Bull have said they regard any sex outside marriage as a "sin".

Steven Preddy (l) and Martyn Hall Steven Preddy (l) and Martyn Hall were turned away by the Bulls in 2008

The Bulls denied discriminating against Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, who are from Bristol.

Sixty-nine-year-old Mrs Bull and her 74-year-old husband said their decision was founded on a "religiously-informed judgment of conscience".

Five Supreme Court justices ruled against them on Wednesday after analysing the case at a hearing in London in October.

Analysis

The case in the Supreme Court is only the latest by British courts in which Christians have pitted their right to behave in accordance with their religious beliefs against the right of other people not to face discrimination and lost.

Defeat in court has been compounded in some cases by the remarks of senior judges, making clear that their job is no longer to enforce morality, and that religious beliefs will not be given more weight than secular values.

The Bulls had argued that what they claimed was only indirect discrimination against Mr Hall and Mr Preddy was justified in law by their rights to "manifest their religion" under the European Convention on Human Rights, but the Supreme Court disagreed.

It makes their case another milestone in the waning influence of Christian teaching in British society and its laws, although the exact nature of that teaching is increasingly contested as many Christians reinterpret traditional beliefs in the light of contemporary experience.

In 2011 a judge at Bristol County Court concluded that the Bulls had acted unlawfully and ordered them to pay a total of £3,600 damages.

The following year the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the Bulls following a hearing in London. The couple had asked the Supreme Court to overrule the Court of Appeal.

Mrs Bull said: "We are deeply disappointed and saddened by the outcome.

"We are just ordinary Christians who believe in the importance of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"Our B&B is not just our business, it's our home. All we have ever tried to do is live according to our own values, under our own roof."

'Political correctness'

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."

Mike Judge, from the Christian Institute, said after the hearing: "What this case shows is that the powers of political correctness have reached all the way to the top of the judicial tree, so much so that even the Supreme Court dare not say anything against gay rights."

Gay rights group Stonewall said in a statement: "We are pleased that the Supreme Court has defended the laws protecting gay customers that Stonewall fought so hard to secure.

"Some might suggest that, rather than pursuing this case, a far more Christian thing to do would be to fight the evils of poverty and disease worldwide."

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