Thursday, 20 January 2011

Christian Bed and Breakfast Establishments

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.


Simon Sarmiento said...

The full text of the judgment is readily available online at

AncientBriton said...

What of freedom of conscience under Human Rights legislation? The freedom of Christians, particularly traditionalists, to worship according to conscience is being eroded in church and state. Why should the human rights of one be over ridden by another?

Ben Trovato said...

How do homosexual-only hotels escape the rules? See for an example...

geoff.whelan said...

I'd be astounded if the regulation 6(2) exceptions applied, they seem to be clearly directed at landlord and tenant relations where the landlord may need the property to house a relative, not in the situation where guests are paying to stay at a B&B. Also regulation 4 specifically relates to this kind of situation:

2) Paragraph (1) applies, in particular, to—


(b)accommodation in a hotel, boarding house or similar establishment,

Seems pretty clear to me. If regulation 4 applies (which it does) only regulation 6(1) grants an exemption:

6.—(1) Regulation 4 does not apply to anything done by a person as a participant in arrangements under which he (for reward or not) takes into his home, and treats as if they were members of his family, children, elderly persons, or persons requiring a special degree of care and attention.

It would take some pretty impressive sleight of hand to persuade the court that this was the position for paying guests at a B&B.

I note that the defendants have confirmed today that they are appealing, funded again by the Christian Institute. Read LJ Laws judgement in the McFarlane case and you can see that the case is doomed to fail (as it should). The law is crystal clear on this point and although it no doubt interferes with their Article 9 rights the interference is fully justified under Article 9(2) as protecting the rights and freedoms of others (namely the right of gay people to get a room).

There is no material difference between B&B's not so long ago saying no blacks and no Irish and these fundamentalist Christians saying God says no gays in our double beds. Our society has moved on (as the Judiciary recognise)and these attitudes are simply not acceptable. Proportionality doesn't come into it as that would simply be allowing small businesses to be bigoted (and it is bigotry in the true sense - just check the origins of the word). Would you advocate a Ku Klux Klan B&B being able to turn away a black customer, or a protestant in Northern Ireland turn away a Catholic?

bail bonds henderson nv said...

The onslaught and persecution of Christians continue just like the Bible says. We're getting closer to the end.