(1) Peter Bull (2) Hazel Mary Bull v (1) Martin Hall (2) Steven Preddy

Facts

The appellant hoteliers (B) appealed against a decision granting the respondents (P) a declaration that B had unlawfully discriminated against them contrary to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and awarding P damages for injury to feelings.

P were two men who had entered into a civil partnership. B ran a hotel on Christian principles and only let double rooms to married couples which their website made plain. P booked a double room by telephone unaware of B's booking conditions. When P arrived at the hotel they were informed of the conditions and were refused accommodation. A few days later, B refunded the booking deposit paid by P. The county court held that B had directly discriminated against P contrary to reg.3(1) of the Regulations and that B's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 did not justify that discrimination. Issues arose as to whether (i) B had directly discriminated against P contrary to reg.3(1); (ii) the regulations breached B's human rights under the Convention.

Held

(1) B's restriction was absolute: a homosexual couple could not comply with it because each party was of the same sex and therefore could not marry. Therefore, the restriction discriminated against P because of their sexual orientation by virtue of reg.3(1) and reg.4, James v Eastleigh BC [1990] 2 A.C. 751 followed (see paras 40, 61 of judgment). (2)(a) It could not be said that a refusal to allow homosexual couples to share double-bedded accommodation that was offered to the public would breach B's rights under art.8 and art.14 of the Convention. (b) To the extent that the Regulations limited the manifestation of B's religious beliefs, such a limitation was necessary in a democratic society for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. The secretary of state had drawn what she considered the appropriate balance between the competing claims of hoteliers and, amongst others, homosexuals. Her decision had been approved by affirmative resolution and the court loathed to interfere with her conclusions. B did not face any difficulty in manifesting their religious beliefs, they were merely prohibited from so doing in the commercial context that they had chosen, Ladele v Islington LBC [2009] EWCA Civ 1357, [2010] 1 W.L.R. 955 and McFarlane v Relate Avon Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 880, [2010] I.R.L.R. 872 applied (paras. 56 ,63 65). (3) (Obiter) Whether or not the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union applied to the matter, it could afford B no greater rights than those to be found within art.9 and art.14, R. (on the application of S) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWHC 705 (Admin), (2010) 160 N.L.J. 548 considered.

Appeal dismissed

Comment

Christian hoteliers who only let double rooms to married couples had directly discriminated against two homosexual men in a civil partnership contrary to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 reg.3(1) in refusing to let them a double room.