The Christian owners of a seaside guesthouse are being sued in a landmark case – for refusing to allow a gay couple to share a double bed.
Devout Peter and Hazelmary Bull refused to let civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy use a double room because it would be ”an affront to their faith”.
They operate a strict policy which only allows married heterosexual couples to share rooms at their B&B in Cornwall.
The gay couple claim the snub was a ”direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation”.
They are using 2007 Equality Act Regulations to claim up to £5,000 in damages at a landmark case that begins at Bristol County Court on Monday (13th).
The hearing could determine whether Christians are permitted to operate B&Bs that restrict double bed accommodation to married couples.
Martyn and Steven’s legal fees are being paid for by the Government-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Mr and Mrs Bull’s legal defence is being financed by The Christian Institute, a charity that protects the religious liberty of Christians.
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said the case could have ”far-reaching ramifications for religious liberty”.
He said: ”This case is about liberty of conscience. This guesthouse is Mr and Mrs Bull’s own home.
”They have rights too, and they should not be forced to act against their sincerely held religious beliefs under their own roof.
”Their guesthouse is not the only one in Cornwall, there is plenty of room for diversity of opinion.
”This Christian couple are being put on trial for their beliefs. Equality laws are being used as a sword rather than a shield.”
Mr Bull, 70, and Mrs Bull, 66, have operated their ‘married only’ policy since they bought the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance, Cornwall, in 1986.
Their hotel website says: ”We have few rules but please note that out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only.”
In August 2008, the Bulls received a letter from Stonewall, the gay rights organisation, saying it had received a complaint and warning the hotel it was breaking the law.
The following month Steven, from Bristol, rang to book a double room for two nights, but did not mention he was part of a homosexual couple.
Mrs Bull, who took the call, said that she had wrongly assumed he would be staying with his wife before she accepted the booking.
When Steven and Martyn arrived, they were told by the manager, Bernie Quinn, that the hotel could not honour the booking and could offer them separate single rooms.
The couple, who live together in Brislington, Bristol, told him he was acting illegally before leaving and reporting the incident to police.
Mrs Bull, a great-grandmother, said their policy meant that even her brother and his female partner had to stay in separate rooms when they visited the hotel.
She said: ”I have had people clearly involved in affairs and under-age people who have tried to book in here for sex, and I have refused them the same as I refused these gentleman because I won’t be a party to anything which is an affront to my faith under my roof.”
A spokesman for Stonewall said: ”We look forward to the hotel changing its policy to reflect equality, the 21st Century and the law.”
The Bulls and Martyn and Steven – who works for the RSPB charity – refused to comment yesterday ahead of the hearing.
The case will be heard at Bristol County Court on Monday 13 December and is scheduled to last for two days.