A judge has decided to delay a ruling on the case of Christian guesthouse owners who refused to accommodate a gay couple.
Peter and Hazelmary Bull are being sued by civil partners Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall for £5,000 in damages. They claim that the Bulls’ policy of only allowing heterosexual married couples in their double rooms is discriminatory under the Equality Act.
The policy has been in place since the Bulls opened the Chymorvah guesthouse in 1986 and appears in a notice on the booking page of its website.
Preddy and Hall booked a double room at the Cornish guesthouse in September 2008 but upon arrival were turned away when the hotel manager realised the booking had not been made for a heterosexual couple.
The guesthouse had received a letter from gay rights group Stonewall a month earlier, informing the Bulls about equality legislation.
According to the Christian Institute, which is providing the legal defence for the Bulls, the judge decided to delay a decision on the case in order to fully consider the complex legal questions it raises.
Spokesman for the Christian Institute, Mike Judge, said: “This Christian couple are being put on trial for their beliefs. Equality laws are being used as a sword rather than a shield.”
The legal costs of Preddy and Hall are being covered by the Government-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission.
In a joint letter to The Telegraph at the weekend, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, and the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the retired Bishop of Rochester, said they were concerned by the lawsuit.
He said: “Mr and Mrs Bull’s understanding of marriage is the same as that of the English law and of the Christian church.
“Their guesthouse is also their home; the place where they live, eat and sleep. Their policy may seem traditional in this day and age but of itself there is nothing wrong with that.”
Ruling on lawsuit against Christian B&B owners expected after Christmas
Published 16 December 2010