The new laws on sexual discrimination continue to make their presence felt. What do you do if you’re a gay couple on holiday looking for a B&B? I’ve done it – ring the bell, ask for a double room, wonder what kind of reaction we will get. A couple holidaying in Cornwall who had pre-booked got the ‘Christian’ response.
Martin Hall and Steven Paddy, a gay couple who are civil partners booked a double room in the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance in November 2008. When they arrived they were told that the hotel could not honour the booking. Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the owners, both Christians, refused to allow them to stay in a room together. (Pictures of the double rooms gay couples are not allowed to sleep in accompany this blog.)
Martin and Steven have launched a county court claim seeking up to £5,000 in damages alleging "direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation".
The owners defended the ban saying that they have always barred unmarried couples, whether gay or straight, from sharing a bed. Mrs Bull said: "In 26 years we have never really had a problem with it. I have found people to be very good and understanding. They realise that they are pursuing one lifestyle while we are pursuing another. "I suppose we knew there would be problems with the new law, but I can't change my beliefs and faith because of that."
Well, times and the law have changed. You could do things in business 26 years ago that you can’t do now, and for lesbian and gay couples, that’s real progress.
The hotel's website states: “Here at Chymorvah we have few rules, but please note that as Christians we have a deep regard for marriage (being the union of one man to one woman for life to the exclusion of all others). Therefore, although we extend to all a warm welcome to our home, our double bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples – Thank you.”
Mr and Mrs Bull think they are entitled to police the morality of other people. If they had couples to stay in their private house, friends who they thought shouldn’t share a bed, then their might be an uncomfortable conversation and the couple might agree and sleep separately or walk out in a huff. But the Bulls are running a business and the laws of this country apply to them.
The Bulls' solicitor, Tom Ellis, has said he will argue that the Equality Act infringes their human rights as Christians. He said: "Under the European Convention on Human Rights, people are able to hold a religious belief and manifest it in the way they act."
The increasingly familiar argument appears, that it is Christians who need protection of their human rights to enable them to hold their religious beliefs and act accordingly. No-one is preventing them from doing that, only of not infringing inappropriately on the lives of others.
All this will change when the churches let go of their sexual prejudices against LGBT people. Christians do not have a human right to be prejudiced.