Thursday, July 11, 2013

British Appeals Court Holds Christian B&B Owner Illegally Discriminated Against Gay Couple

In Black v. Wilkinson, (EWCA, July 9, 2013), Britain's Court of Appeal held that the Christian owner of a bed and breakfast operated from her home violated he Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 by limiting her two double rooms to married heterosexual couples.  The B&B had a total of 3 rooms that were available for guests. The suit was brought by a gay couple who were turned away after they had made a reservation and submitted a deposit.  Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson concluded that these actions amounted to both direct and indirect discrimination.  He added:
It is clearly established that, as a matter of general principle, (i) the right of a homosexual not to suffer discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is an important human right (article 8 and 14), and (ii) the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief under article 9(1) is also an important human right.... Neither is intrinsically more important than the other. Neither in principle trumps the other. But the weight to be accorded to each will depend on the particular circumstances of the case.....
In a press release, the Christian Institute (which funded the B&B owner's appeal)  however pointed to language in Lord Dyson's opinion that led it to conclude there was still a possibility in future cases for some B&B's to justify restricting rooms to married couples.