Bristol Court rules that hotels cannot discriminate against gays
3rd March 2011
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Bristol Court rules that hotels cannot discriminate against gays

A lot of local hotel and B & B proprietors will have been following with interest the case of the 2 gay men who sued a Bristol couple who refused them a hotel room when they tried to check in to a double room. This is one of the first cases ever to be brought under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. The hotel owners were devout Christians who believe that sexual relations outside marriage is sinful and have a policy to let double rooms only to married heterosexual couples. However, the Bristol court held that they had unlawfully discriminated against the gay couple and awarded them compensation.

The hotel owners argued that the restriction against letting double rooms applied equally to unmarried heterosexual couples and was justifiable because of their religious beliefs regarding the importance of marriage. The judge said the right of the hotel owners to manifest their religion could be limited to protect the rights and freedoms of the gay claimants and described the Equality Act Regulations as a "necessary and proportionate intervention by the state to protect the rights of others". The judge did however accept that the case affected the hotel-owners' human rights to manifest their religion and forced them to act in a manner contrary to their deeply and genuinely held beliefs, and has granted them permission to appeal. The gay couple were actually “married” ie civil partners, and it would be interesting to know whether the outcome would have been any different if they had not been.

A very thought-provoking case, especially since it involves attaching greater importance to one person’s legitimate human rights over another’s. And interestingly, there would be no come-back for heterosexual couples who had been together for years but were not married. At Renney & Co we advise a number of Hotel, B & B and Pub owners on their rights and duties.

If you would like some guidance on whether your policies might be unlawful or need updating then please contact us.
01225 326435
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