Christian B&B takes gay 'discrimination' case to European court
- 18 March 2014
- From the section Mid Wales
Two Powys Christians accused of discriminating against gay couples at their guesthouse are taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Sue and Jeff Green changed their policy of letting double rooms only to married couples after a complaint from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
It warned they could be breaking the law at their Llandrindod Wells B&B.
The Greens now want to establish whether Christian beliefs and human rights are superseded by equality laws.
It follows a Supreme Court ruling last year against Christian hoteliers Peter and Hazelmary Bull from Marazion, Cornwall, who were found to have discriminated unlawfully against a same-sex couple by refusing to give them a double room.
Mr Green, who is mayor of Llandrindod Wells and runs the Highland Moors guesthouse with his wife, said the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) wrote to them over a similar policy to provide double rooms only to married couples and warned them it was unlawful to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.
The Greens now offer single beds only to all guests and said the EHRC had dropped the case.
But Mr and Mrs Green said they wanted to conduct their business in line with their Christian conscience and with backing from the campaign group Christian Concern they are taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
"It all started with a letter from the Equality and Human Rights Commission who said they had received a complaint about a line on our website which said we had double rooms for married couples," said Mr Green.
"We agreed to remove this from our website and suddenly the complaint completely vanished."
Mr Green said the recent UK equality legislation had "huge implications" for Christians "who want to live their lives according to their beliefs".
"We have no prospect of success in the British courts so we have decided to take this to Europe," he added.
"I want to establish whether Christian beliefs and human rights are superseded by equality laws.
"We run our business from our house with our three children. We are not going to break the law but we don't think we should compromise our faith either.
"It seems that recent UK equality legislation is being used to undermine Christian faith and values."
Gay marriage becomes legal in England and Wales on 29 March.
Scotland has passed a same-sex marriage bill but no such changes are planned in Northern Ireland.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, the legal arm of Christian Concern, said the case was about people's freedom to live in line with their Christian faith and conscience.
"It is disappointing that our courts do not recognise this and this is why we are taking the case to Europe where we hope to secure justice," she said.
"It is ironic that the court in Strasbourg seems to understand the nature of Christian faith better than our own courts.
"Debate over sexual morality has been allowed to become a battlefield and we are concerned about the attempt to clamp down and even exclude Christian beliefs on the issue from public life."
An EHRC spokesperson said: "'The commission wrote to the guesthouse owners advising them that the wording on their website could be construed as potentially discriminatory.
"We are aware that the website has now been amended, and we closed the case in December."