The owners of a Bed and Breakfast establishment in Cornwall have been sucessfully sued for a breach of the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007. I do not have a transcript of the Court judgment and so have to rely on the news reports Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, BBC for the facts.
(PS ADDITION I am grateful to Sam Sarmiento for pointing me in the direction of a copy of the Judgment on the Judiciary Website. It is unusual to be able to obtain copies of County Court Judgments so it is good that the decision has been taken to publish Judgments in County Court cases such as this one where there is considerable public interest in the case)
The result was perhaps not too surprising in view of the general way sexual orientation discrimination law is working these days however the fact that the Judge has given leave to appeal does indicate that he considers the legal position to be unclear or at least arguable.
The fact is that the couple were not actually refused a room they were refused a room with a double bed and that is a policy which the Christian B&B owners have also applied to heterosexxual couples who were not married. The relevant point in this case seems to be the fact that the Gay couple were in a Civil Partnership and under reg 3(4) of the regulations Civil Partners shoudl be treated on the same basis as married couples (at least that is how the regulation is usually interpreted it is not that clearly worded )
Conversely under reg 6 Discrimination is legal when applied to premises where the owner (landlord) also lives as is the case here so there is room for an appeal court to reach a different decision to the County Court Judge who tried the case.
I have a couple of points relating to proportionality which is should discrimination law apply at all to such a small business as a B&B. The essence of any small or family run business is that it is highly personal and individualist indeed that is why people go to B&B's rather than main hotels. If as a society we want individualism and difference then surely we need to allow the freedom to be different.
As for thos who oppose any freedom for discrimination be referring to racial discrimination in Nazi germany or the American South or South Africa but I would disagree with these comparisons. The problem in these societies was not that people were allowed to discriminate but that they were obliged to discriminate by the laws applying in those countries. It seems to me that society should allow discrimination to be legal at least for small businesses and private associations even if society disaproves of that discrimination.