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Discrimination Payout Highlights Implications of Equality Act 2010

19th Jan 2011

The owners of a hotel who refused to allow a gay couple a double room acted unlawfully, a judge has ruled.  The owners, Peter and Hazel Bull, are devout Christians who do not allow couples who are not married to share double rooms because they do not believe in sex before marriage.

They refused Martyn Hall and Steve Preddy’s custom on the basis of their disapproval of pre-martial sex rather than their disapproval of gay relationships but Judge Rutherford at Bristol County Court found that Mr and Mrs Bull had directly sexually discriminated against the couple.

The Judge acknowledged that individuals have a right to practice their religious beliefs but that right is not absolute and “”can be limited to protect the rights and freedoms of the claimants”".  One of the key factors in this case was that Mr and Mrs Bull failed to recognise the civil partnership of Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, meaning that they should have been treated in the same way as they would have treated a heterosexual married couple.   Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were subsequently awarded £1,800 each in damages by the court.

Paul Johnstone, a partner in Muckle LLP’s employment team, said that this case highlights the impact that equality law is now having on the wider community.  “”Traditionally, anti-discrimination legislation has been most widely used within the workplace to prevent harassment, victimisation and to prevent individuals from being discriminated against when applying for jobs”", he said.  “”Under the provisions of Equality Act 2010 there will now be a far greater emphasis on using the principles established in discrimination legislation within the workplace to relationships in the wider community, particularly in the provision of services to members of the public from private sector and public sector organisations.”"

For further information, please contact Paul Johnstone, call 0191 211 7936 or alternatively email us at [email protected].

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