Judge says laws are used to change our behaviour

Yahoo / Press Association
18.01.2011

Hotel broke law in gay couple snub

Christian hotel owners who refused a gay couple a double room acted unlawfully, a judge has ruled.

Peter, 70, and Hazelmary Bull, 66, were breaking the law when they denied Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy a room at their hotel in Cornwall in September 2008.

Judge Andrew Rutherford made the ruling in a written judgment at Bristol County Court as he awarded the couple £1,800 each in damages.

Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, from Bristol, were seeking up to £5,000 damages claiming sexual orientation discrimination under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.

At a hearing last month, the Bulls denied the claim, saying they have a long-standing policy of banning all unmarried couples, both heterosexual and gay, from sharing a bed at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance, which was based on their beliefs about marriage, not a hostility to sexual orientation.

In his ruling, Judge Rutherford said: “We live today in a parliamentary democracy. Our laws are made by the Queen in Parliament. It is inevitable that such laws will from time to time cut across deeply held beliefs of individuals and sections of society for they reflect the social attitudes and morals prevailing at the time that they are made.

“In the last 50 years there have been many such instances - the abolition of capital punishment; the abolition of corporal punishment in schools; the decriminalisation of homosexuality and of suicide; and on a more mundane level the ban on hunting and on smoking in public places.

All of these - and they are only examples - have offended sections of the population and in some cases cut across traditional religious beliefs. These laws have come into being because of changes in social attitudes.

“The standards and principles governing our behaviour which were unquestioningly accepted in one generation may not be so accepted in the next. I am quite satisfied as to the genuineness of the defendants’ beliefs and it is, I have no doubt, one which others also hold.

“It is a very clear example of how social attitudes have changed over the years for it is not so very long ago that these beliefs of the defendants would have been those accepted as normal by society at large. Now it is the other way around.”

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