Saturday, February 11, 2012

British Appeals Court Upholds Damages For Religious Refusal To Rent Hotel Room To Same-Sex Couple

In Bull v. Hall & Preddy, (EWCA, Feb. 10, 2012), the Court of Appeal of England and Wales upheld a damage award against a Christian couple who operated a hotel for refusing, on religious grounds, to rent a double-bedded room to a same-sex couple that had reserved it.  The court held that the refusal amounted to direct discrimination in violation of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. Appellants argued that applying the Regulations to them violated their right of thought, conscience and religion protected by Art. 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court rejected the argument. Lady Justice Rafferty in her opinion wrote:
Whilst the Appellants’ beliefs about sexual practice may not find the acceptance that once they did, nevertheless a democratic society must ensure that their espousal and expression remain open to those who hold them. It would be unfortunate to replace legal oppression of one community (homosexual couples) with legal oppression of another (those sharing the Appellants’ beliefs); rather there should be achieved respect for the broad protection granted to religious freedom.... Any interference with religious rights.... must satisfy the test of `anxious scrutiny’. However, in a pluralist society it is inevitable that from time to time, as here, views, beliefs and rights of some are not compatible with those of others. ...I do not consider that the Appellants face any difficulty in manifesting their religious beliefs, they are merely prohibited from so doing in the commercial context they have chosen.
The Telegraph reports on the decision. (See prior related posting.)