Guesthouse pair lose appeal over gay ban

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Two Christian guesthouse owners who were ordered to pay damages after refusing to allow a gay couple to stay in a double room yesterday lost their appeal.

The challenge by Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who run Chymorvah House in Marazion, Cornwall, was rejected by three judges in the Court of Appeal in London.

They had appealed against a conclusion by a judge at Bristol County Court that they acted unlawfully when they turned away Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy in September 2008.

Judge Andrew Rutherford ruled in January last year that the Bulls had breached equality legislation and ordered them to pay the couple a total of £3,600 damages.

The appeal judges heard that the Bulls thought any sex outside marriage was a “sin”, but denied they had discriminated against Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, from Bristol.

Yesterday’s ruling was given by Sir Andrew Morritt, Chancellor of the High Court, Lord Justice Hooper and Lady Justice Rafferty. Mr Bull, 72, and Mrs Bull, who is in her late 60s, were not in court.

During the hearing of the appeal in November, James Dingemans QC, for the Bulls, argued that the couple were entitled to hold “outdated” religious beliefs.

He said the Bulls operated a policy directed towards sexual practice not sexual orientation and said they believed that permitting unmarried people - whether heterosexual or homosexual - to share a double bed involved them in “promoting a sin”.

Mr Dingemans said the Bulls were not trying to undermine the rights of Mr Hall and Mr Preddy and judges had to carefully balance all human rights involved.

Robin Allen QC, for Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, argued that his clients had a “lawful civil partnership” and the guesthouse should have been “open” to them in the same way it was to heterosexual married couples.

The judges heard that the Bulls were being backed by the Christian Institute and Mr Hall and Mr Preddy by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The three upheld the finding that the Bulls had directly discriminated against Mr Hall and Mr Preddy.

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