Friday, 10 February 2012

B&B Owners and Sexual Orientation

Two legal decisions today one not unexpected and one completely bizarre

In Bull v Hall & Preddy [2012] EWCA Civ 83 the Court of Appeal confirmed that two B&B owners had discriminated against a same sex couple by refusing to let them have a Double Room. The decision was based on the provisions of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 which have now been incorporated into the Equality Act 2010.

Essentially the Bulls are a Christian couple who believe that sex should only take place in the context of a married, monagamous and heterosexual relationship. They run a Bed and Breakfast and applied a rule that only married couples could share a room, the rule was applied to unmarried heterosexual couples as well as same-sex couples. However the Court held that since, by definition, a same sex couple could never fall within the definition of a married couple applied by the Bulls the rule was discriminatory towards same sex couples and hence illegal.

I am not surprised by the ruling which was to be expected in view of all the previous decisions on the rights, or to be more precise, lack of rights of Christians in the public sphere. However what does irritate me is that the Judge did not try to address the basic point behind the Bulls objection namely the fact that giving a double room to an unmarried couple would make the Bulls morally complicit in an immoral act. Were they, for example, running a restaurant and had refused to give a meal to a same sex couple then that would have been simple discrimination but their stand was more nuanced than that and it is unfortunate that that British Courts seem unable to recognise that point


Anonymous said...

How far does the idea of being complicit in an immoral act go? If a catholic has his house on the market can he morally only sell it to people who are legally married?

If anything a bed and breakfast owner has less to worry about because he is only going to be responsible for permitting one night of illicit sex, but if you sell the unmarried a house to live in then you could be facilitating a lifetime of sin.

Or perhaps we should worry about our own sins, and leave those of other people as a matter between them and God?

Neil Addison said...

Firstly since the Bulls are Evangelical Christians I don't know why you specifically drag Catholics into your question.

If a person feels that selling his house to an unmarried couple would be wrong then he/she should have every right to refuse to do so it is an intensely personal decision where you draw the line and that personal decision should be respected

Anonymous said...

I put a Catholic into the example because I came to your site from the Catholic Herald where you are described as "Catholic barrister Neil Addison", and the Catholic church has fairly comprehensive moral code which gives clear guidance to the conscience on those sort of issues. Would you agree that whereas there is an emphasis on individual conscience for evangelicals, Catholics generally can find out from authority a definite answer a the question of whether or not an action is moral?

So I would be interested to know if the Catholic Church teaches that it is immoral for bed and breakfast owners to let a room to an unmarried couple? If so is there guidance to hotel receptionists not to give room keys out to unmarried couples?

Neil Addison said...

I am not aware of any specific Catholic teaching on the point you raise. I think it would be a matter for individual conscience as it was for Mr and Mrs Bull

Simon Gardner said...

Neil Addison: if I run a B&B and let christians sleep there, I am complicit because they may pray. See what I did there.

Neil Addison said...


Arguably you are complicit but the question then arises do you regard yourself as being
"morally complicit in an immoral act"
which is the point that the Bulls felt themselves to be in