LONDON — A Christian couple were fined Tuesday for refusing to allow a gay couple the use of a double room at their hotel in southern England, capping a case that has drawn national attention and which the judge himself described as very difficult.
There was a media uproar after Martyn Hall and his partner Steven Preddy were turned away from Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion, in southwestern England, in 2008. Husband and wife Peter and Hazelmary Bull – both devout Christians – had refused on religious grounds to let the two men share a room.
In a written judgment handed down at Bristol Country Court, judge Andrew Rutherford ruled that the Bulls' behavior had been illegal and awarded the gay couple 1,800 pounds (about $2,900) each in damages.
Hall and Preddy said they were satisfied with the ruling, noting that they had asked whether they could bring their dog – but that it had never occurred to them to check whether they themselves would be welcome.
The Bulls had argued that their intent was not to discriminate against homosexuals, saying they did not allow unmarried heterosexuals to share a double room either. It was also argued that, because they lived on the ground floor of their hotel, they had a right to have their home life respected.
Rutherford rejected those arguments, saying it was clear that the only reason the gay couple was refused to the room "was because of their sexual orientation." He added that the Bulls' right to have their private and family life respected was "inevitably circumscribed by their decision to use their home in part as a hotel."
The case received wide coverage in the British press, with the Bulls' legal defense was supported by Britain's Christian Institute while Hall and Preddy were backed by the country's Equality and Human Rights Commission. It made a brief appearance in last year's election campaign after senior Tory lawmaker Chris Grayling told an audience at a London think tank that he thought bed and breakfast owners should allowed to exclude who they wanted from their own home – comments that disappointed gay rights campaigners.
Rutherford acknowledged he found the case "very difficult."
"It is clearly, in my view, the case that each side hold perfectly honorable and respectable, albeit wholly contrary, views."