Christian hotel owners who refused to let a gay couple stay in a double room may appeal against a court ruling that they acted unlawfully.
Peter and Hazelmary Bull were taken to court by civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, who yesterday hailed the decision at Bristol County Court for showing no one was above the law.
They were turned away from the Bulls hotel in Cornwall in September 2008 having booked a double room.
In a ruling at Bristol County Court yesterday, Judge Andrew Rutherford said the Bulls had acted unlawfully and ordered them to pay the men 1,800 each in damages and their legal costs.
Mr Hall, 46, and Mr Preddy, 38, from Bristol, made the claim for sexual orientation discrimination under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.
They said: "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."
Mr and Mrs Bull, who run the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance, Cornwall, said they would consider appealing against the decision, which means the case could be heard at the High Court and in Europe.
"We are obviously disappointed with the result. Our double- bed policy was based on our sincere beliefs about marriage, not hostility to anybody," Mrs Bull said.
"It was applied equally and consistently to unmarried heterosexual couples and homosexual couples, as the judge accepted.
"We are trying to live and work in accordance with our Christian faith.
"As a result we have been sued and ordered to pay 3,600. But many Christians have given us gifts, so thanks to them we will be able to pay the damages."
Mrs Bull added: "I do feel that Christianity is being marginalised in Britain. The same laws used against us have been used to shut down faith-based adoption agencies.
"Much is said about 'equality and diversity' but it seems some people are more equal than others."
The Bulls, who were backed by the Christian Institute, denied the discrimination claim, saying they have a long-standing policy of banning all unmarried couples both heterosexual and gay from sharing a bed in their hotel.
Mr Bull, 70, and his wife, 66, said their policy, operated since they bought the hotel in 1986, is based on their beliefs about marriage and not hostility to sexual orientation.
The court ruling could mean they must close their business if they refuse to change their policy.
In his ruling, Judge Rutherford said that while the Bulls held "perfectly orthodox Christian beliefs", social attitudes in Britain had changed in the past 50 years.
"I have found this a very difficult case, not least because the application of these regulations is an area of the law with which I have not previously had to grapple," he said.
"And it is clearly, in my view, the case that each side hold perfectly honourable and respectable, albeit wholly contrary, views."
However, he said that under the Bulls' rules, two friends of the same sex who are backpacking around Cornwall could not have a double room at their hotel.
"It seems to me that a correct analysis of the position of the defendants is that they discriminate on the basis of marital status.
I have reached the clear conclusion that on a proper analysis of the defendants' position on the facts of this particular case the only conclusion which can be drawn is that the refusal to allow them to occupy the double room which they had booked was because of their sexual orientation and that prima facie they fall within the provisions of Regulation 3(1) and that this is direct discrimination."
Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Spokesman John Wadham said: "When Mr and Mrs Bull chose to open their home as a hotel, their private home became a commercial enterprise. This decision means that community standards, not private ones, must be upheld."