A landmark UK court judgment, which has found that Christian hotel owners had unlawfully discriminated on grounds of sexual orientation, has been welcomed by the British Humanist Association as a victory for equality and liberty.
Martyn Hall and Steve Preddy took legal action against Christian hotel owners Peter and Hazel Bull after they refused a double room at their bed and breakfast to the civil partnered couple. In the ruling, Judge Rutherford said the right of the defendants to manifest their religion is not absolute and “can be limited to protect the rights and freedoms of the claimants”. He also described the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, the law under which the case was made and which protects against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the delivery of goods, facilities and services, as a “necessary and proportionate intervention by the state to protect the rights of others”.
BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said, “We support without question the absolute right of people to their beliefs but there will be instances, such as in this case, where acting upon those beliefs can be legitimately restrained in order that the rights of others are not infringed. Domestic equality legislation protects people from illegitimate discrimination and so engenders a public space where individual liberty can thrive.
“The narrative whipped up by political Christian groups around cases such as this suggests that Christians are being marginalised or religious freedom is being restricted, but this is a false and misleading picture. Instead, what we are seeing time and again is the courts upholding the rights of people not to be discriminated against on the arbitrary convictions of someone who does not wish to treat them equally.”