Christian B&B owners who turned away gay couple fined by UK court

Christian B&B owners who turned away gay couple fined by UK court

Christian guest house owners who were ordered to pay damages after turning away a gay couple have said they are "deeply disappointed and saddened" after losing a fight in the UK's highest court.

Peter Bull, 74, and his wife Hazelmary, 69, had asked the British Supreme Court to decide whether 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.

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

The couple, who run a guest house in Marazion, Cornwall, had previously lost fights in a county court and the Court of Appeal.

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

In 2012, 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.

The Bulls said they thought that any sex outside marriage was ''a sin'' - and denied discriminating against Mr Hall and Mr Preddy.

They said their decision was founded on a ''religiously-informed judgment of conscience''.

Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, from Bristol, said they were victims of discrimination.

"We are deeply disappointed and saddened by the outcome," said Mrs Bull after the hearing.

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

She added: "It's our home. All we have ever tried to do is live according to our own values, under our own roof."

Mrs Bull said she and her husband bore no "ill-will to Steven and Martyn".

"Britain ought to be a country of freedom and tolerance, but it seems religious beliefs must play second fiddle to the new orthodoxy of political correctness," she added.

"We appealed to the Supreme Court to introduce a bit more balance when dealing with competing rights of sexual orientation and religious liberty.

"Somehow, we have got to find a way of allowing different beliefs to coexist in our society.

"But the judges have sidestepped that big issue, and reinforced the notion that gay rights must trump everything else."

One judge, Lady Hale, said the case was a dispute between "Christian hotel-keepers" and "same-sex civil partners" - all of whom had a legal protection against discrimination.

She said competing human rights were in play - the Bulls' right to "manifest their religion" and the right of Mr Preddy and Mr Hall to have their private lives respected without unjustified discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

But she said "discriminating against homosexuals" was unlawful.

"Mr and Mrs Bull are, of course, free to manifest their religion," said Lady Hale. "They are also free to continue to deny double-bedded rooms to same-sex and unmarried couples, provided that they also deny them to married couples."

She added: "Mr and Mrs Bull cannot get round the fact that United Kingdom law prohibits them from doing as they did."

Lady Hale said the "legacy" of "centuries of discrimination, persecution even" against homosexuals should not be underestimated.

She added: "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."

Lady Hale said if Mr Preddy and Mr Hall ran a hotel and denied a double room to Mr and Mrs Bull, on the grounds of the Bulls' Christian beliefs, they would find themselves in the "same situation".

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