Elderly Christian couple may close their hotel if court rules against them
An elderly Christian couple in the U.K. may close their small hotel in Cornwall if a judge rules against them for not allowing a gay couple to stay overnight.
Peter and Hazelmary Bull, owners of Chymorvah Hotel in Marazion, U.K. said they turned down Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy in Sept. 2008 because their faith does not permit unmarried couples to share a room together, the Guardian reported.
The Way reported that Hall and Preddy, who are civil partners, sued the Bulls for £5,000 under Equality Act Regulations 2007. The Bristol Crown Court deferred judgment on the case until after Christmas.
Peter, 70, and Hazelmary, 66, said they have a policy not to allow unmarried couples, whether heterosexual or gay, to share a bed in their hotel, which they have adhered to since they purchased it in 1986, The Telegraph said.
Hazelmary said in court, “We accept that the Bible is the holy living word of God and we endeavor to follow that.” Their faith does not believe in sex before marriage, according to The Telegraph.
Of the judge’s decision to defer his ruling, Hazelmary said, “The judge has reserved his judgment and obviously we hope for a decision that lets us live and work in line with our faith as we approach retirement,” The Way reported.
Hall and Preddy are represented by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, while the Bulls are supported by a charity called the Christian Institute, according to the Guardian.
Did not know of policy
The Telegraph said that Preddy told the court that he found the hotel online and booked a room by telephone. He did not see the hotel’s room policy, which is displayed on its booking form.
The Telegraph quoted Preddy saying in court, “When we arrived we spoke to a lady and she got Mr [Bernie] Quinn [a staff member of the hotel] to come and talk to us and explain the hotel’s policy.”
Preddy said “The body language wasn’t great and it was clear we were not welcome in the hotel. It’s fair to say he didn’t raise his voice,” the Telegraph reported. Afterwards, Preddy and Hall reported the Bulls to the police.
Quinn told the court the hotel may have been a setup, the Telegraph reported, as a month earlier Stonewall, a gay rights group, wrote to the Bulls informing them of new equality legislation.
Quinn said hours before Preddy made the booking by phone in a “Mrs. Preddy” called and spoke to him to ask questions about a double room. Later, Preddy spoke to Hazelmary, who took the booking,” The Telegraph said.
Hazelmary said she was ill at the time, and she failed to explain the hotel’s policy. When she brought the matter up to Quinn afterwards, he reassured her there was nothing to worry about, The Telegraph reported.
The Telegraph said Bulls’ lawyer, James Dingemans said, “It is not part of the defendants’ case to undermine the rights of same-sex partners. The defendants do submit their policy is directed to sex and not sexual orientation and is lawful.”
Dingemans said, “Without the protection of the law, they will simply not be able to operate their business. As they limp towards retirement they have the right to live and work within their religious beliefs,” the Guardian reported.
Preddy told the court that while he and Hall are members of Stonewall, they didn’t know that the organization sent a letter to the hotel before they booked the hotel room, The Telegraph reported.
Significance of case decision
The court ruling will set a precedent that will determine whether or not Christians who operate their own hotels can determine whether or not to restrict room accommodation to unmarried couples, the Guardian said.
Last November, another court case related to religion was filed because the petitioner felt a Christian couple was not fit to adopt children because of their beliefs, The Way reported.
The case caused some bishops of the Church of England to decry the suppression of religious beliefs by gay rights advocates, The Way said.