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British Supreme Court rejects religious-based appeal from hotel owners who denied room to gay couple

LGBT Legal Cases

Supreme Court of United Kingdom crestA bit of legal news out of the UK: Britain’s Supreme Court today rejected an appeal filed by a Christian couple who were fined for refusing to allow a gay couple to rent a room at their hotel. ┬áReuters reports:

In its judgment, the court said the high-profile case and the legal issues it had raised were “a measure of how far we have come in the recognition of same-sex relationships”.

The Christian couple had argued that they should not be forced to facilitate what they regard as a sin by allowing unmarried couples to share a bed. They argued they were discriminating against homosexuals only “indirectly” because they would also have refused a room to unmarried heterosexuals.

The court rejected their argument, noting that the gay couple were in a civil partnership, a union for same-sex couples recognized under British law which gives very similar rights to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

“Marriage and civil partnership exist both to recognise and to encourage stable, committed, long-term relationships. It is very much in the public interest that intimate relationships be conducted in this way,” the court ruled.

A county court and appellate court both ruled against the Christian couple, Hazelmary and Peter Bull. ┬áThe Bulls then appealed to Britain’s Supreme Court, which issued its unanimous decision in the gay couple’s favor today.

A distinct but somewhat similar case may make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court: a couple in Albuquerque who own a wedding photography business have appealed a unanimous New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that held that businesses may not refuse services to gay couples because they disagree with marriage equality.

76 Comments

  • 1. Richard Weatherwax  |  November 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    How does hotels refusing rooms to same sex couples differ from restaurants refusing to serve blacks? If a hotel is allowed to refuse rooms to same sex couples, what is to prevent them from refusing rooms to Catholics or Jews?

  • 2. Michael Worley  |  November 27, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I think a better comparison is banning smoking. I'm sure the couple would have rented to one of the men alone; It's the act the object to.

    Of course, I will be in the minority on this site, but that's my view.

  • 3. Straight Ally #3008  |  November 27, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Don't you hate it when you rent a room and there's been gay in it? Just like smoking, you're right.

  • 4. SoCal_Dave  |  November 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    What act? Because 2 gay men rent a room is there necessarily an "act"?

  • 5. Michael Worley  |  November 27, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    of course not. But what other distinction is there between renting to one man or two? Sooner or later, the LGBT community needs to acknowledge Christians have commandments (which include both loving others and chastity) which make this issue extremely different than race. That would be a big step in helping heal things,

  • 6. Christian  |  November 27, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    As a Christian, I know we are commanded to love others selflessly and without condition. St. Paul rebuked St. James when he tried to make new Christians moralistic and damned the Judeo-Christian heretics who demanded the Galatians follow the levitcal laws before following Jesus.

    And as far as this issue being different from race, both are immutable and displayed physical traits. Our histories are both leavened with discrimination, even genocide.

    Our histories are similar as are our traits. This is why we demand equal treatment in issues.

  • 7. Christian  |  November 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    This couple isn't Christian, they may follow some bastardization of the religion but they in no way are followers of Jesus. As the saying goes "who would Jesus hate?"

    Nor do they deserve rights that supersedes or compromises those of the LGBT community.

  • 8. Rich  |  November 27, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Sooner or later Christians and anyone else who harbor issues with gay people need to understand that, in many states, gays are protected from discrimination by business that serve the general public. I am quite certain that Christian owners of B&B's, cake businesses and any other service providers do not ask heterosexual couples for documentation of their marriage before taking the order, preparing the bedroom or serving the coffee.

  • 9. Dr. Z  |  November 27, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Maybe they should a "gay deposit" in the event that they've been all gay in it and got they their cooties everywhere? You know how catching those are.

    Aside: isn't it easy to tell when someone's straight? Much easier than telling when someone's gay.

  • 10. Dr. Z  |  November 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Apparently the owners of the B&B need to don a special hazmat suit to protect them from teh gay cooties.

  • 11. bayareajohn  |  November 27, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    They are already wearing hazelmary and peter bull suits. Close?

  • 12. SoCal_Dave  |  November 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    But, Michael, that's just my point. There shouldn't be a distinction between renting to one man or two. There should be no assumption *and no interest* in what goes on in the room. Christians are free to obey their commandments, but they cannot be free to try to enforce them on others. Not a for-profit business that serves the public.

  • 13. Mike in Baltimore  |  November 27, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    And if the couple was in a relationship, but had NO sex at all? My partner and I were in a more than 20 year relationship, but we had NO sex with each other for more than 15 years of that relationship. He snored very loudly, so we slept in separate bedrooms.

    You aren't afraid of 'catching teh gay' are you? How is that accomplished, anyway? Is it spelled out in 'the Gay Agenda' (that totally fictional thing most homophobes think exists)?

  • 14. Mike in Baltimore  |  November 27, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    The Jews in Germany were circumcised by (religious) commandment. The 'founder' of the Xian religion was a Jew from birth to death. Yet, the Xians of Germany (supposedly followers of that person) didn't circumcise, but the Xians of the United States did.

    What commandment did the German or the American Xians violate? Someone violated some commandment, since one side circumcised, and the other side didn't.

  • 15. weshlovrcm  |  November 27, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Allowing anti-gay "Christians" the special right to discriminate against loving gay families does not "heal" anything. It harms the couple, tears the social fabric and allows the sinful "Christians" to continue refusing to control their immoral homophobic urges. It's not in anyone's best interest except the Father of Lies.

  • 16. MightyAcorn  |  November 28, 2013 at 8:44 am

    It's absurd to assert that others have to live by–though you try to redefine this demand as "acknowledging," you mean, "give force of law to"–religious dogma that isn't their own. No, in a free society we all abide by the civil law, which also protects religious practice as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of others. Those who use their religiousness as an excuse to violate the dignity of others need to "acknowledge" that we don't live in a theocracy, and the civil rights of others will be vigorously defended.

  • 17. Steve  |  November 28, 2013 at 9:08 am

    And always with the No True Scotsman fallacy. You don't get to define who is Christian and who isn't.

  • 18. Dr. Z  |  November 28, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Happy Thanksgivvukah!

    Article from the Portland Tribune on the current status of the 2014 ballot initiative in Oregon: http://www.koin.com/news/oregon/tide-turns-in-fav

  • 19. Dr. Z  |  November 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Okay, let's try that again:
    http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/202400-tide-

  • 20. FYoung  |  November 28, 2013 at 9:48 am

    That link is broken. Here is the correct link: http://www.koin.com/news/oregon/tide-turns-in-fav

  • 21. Straight Dave  |  November 28, 2013 at 11:20 am

    True enough, but it's a completely moot point. Your religious affiliation has zero impact on which civil laws you are required to follow, i.e., all of them. That's why one's religion can be personally defined, personally exercised and exhibited, and personally changed. It has no relevance to anything else outside the individual. Trying to entangle religion with anything legal is a fool's errand. The courts have generally been pretty good at keeping the two separate.

  • 22. Michael Worley  |  November 28, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Mike:

    I am sure, provided there were two rooms available, the B&B people would have had no problem renting them to you and your partner.

  • 23. Dr. Z  |  November 28, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Not anymore. Their business dropped off to zero because nobody wanted to stay at a B&B run by a couple of moralistic bigots.

  • 24. LaMarr  |  November 28, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I really think these "so proclaimed" Christians Don't realize Christ was gay with 12 boyfriends.

    Hey It's in all four gospels of the New Testament. They just can't see the forest for the trees.

  • 25. bythesea  |  November 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    While amusing, there is no real evidence of that and despite your assertion, it is not self-evident. At most there are very subjective hints of a special friendship with John and obscure hints that some rituals might have involved nudity (neither of which necessarily prove nor involve gay sex).

  • 26. Straight Dave  |  November 28, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    @MichaelWorley – And charge them twice the price? Are you serious?. You consider that fair, do you?

    Or did you mean just charge them for one room but register them into 2 separate rooms knowing full well that the 2nd room would never get opened? I doubt they could lie to themselves like that in good conscience, given how important they considered this issue. Therefore, you surely must have meant option 1. Therefore, are you serious?!?!?!?

  • 27. weshlovrcm  |  November 28, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    No, the Bible does. It's quite clear that those who follow Jesus MUST follow His commandments, one of the two main ones being–Treat others as you want to be treated. This "Christian" couple is not doing that. Period.

  • 28. Michael Worley  |  November 29, 2013 at 6:47 am

    I think you misunderstood my comment quite severely. The hypothetical was a gay couple who chose not to sleep in the same room routinely. I said that they would not be prevented from renting two rooms. I did not mean to imply at all that any other gay couple would choose that–indeed, I agree with your skepticism on this in most cases.

  • 29. Dr. Z  |  November 29, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Okay, to go with your logic: since to you the paramount consideration is operating their business as if it were a religion, you would have to conclude that since we gays are minions of the devil, the couple must be lying, and planning to visit each other clandestinely for the express purpose of defiling your holy B&B, which of course was built on consecrated ground and is just like a church. The only way for your B&B to remain holy is to not rent them rooms at all. Maybe they can stay in the stable out back with the other animals, on unconsecrated ground.

    Do you remember what Jesus had to say about people who made a big show of praying in public, and those who were obsessed with remaining ritually pure?

  • 30. Steve  |  November 29, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Then there are very, very few Christians in the world.

  • 31. John_B_in_DC  |  November 29, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Besides, where in the bible does it instruct believers to impose their religious rules on those who don't share their religious beliefs? I'm still looking for somebody to explain that one to me.

  • 32. John_B_in_DC  |  November 29, 2013 at 7:16 am

    No, a better comparison would be an interracial couple: the "act" of sex between two people of different races. And that question was resolved decades ago.

  • 33. Richard Weatherwax  |  November 29, 2013 at 10:23 am

    There were women with Jesus and the apostles. The women cared for and supported them and followed Jesus to Jerusalem:

    Matthew 27:55
    Luke 8:3
    Luke 23:55

  • 34. Richard Weatherwax  |  November 29, 2013 at 10:24 am

    There were women with Jesus and the apostles. The women cared for and supported them and followed Jesus to Jerusalem:

    Matthew 27:55
    Luke 8:3
    Luke 23:55

  • 35. Richard Weatherwax  |  November 29, 2013 at 10:26 am

    posted in the wrong place.

  • 36. Christian  |  November 29, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    What if I was io mind with the Sothern Baptist Church? (Or at least as it used to be), could I also claim my religion precludes me from serving interracial married couples or even from recognizing them as married for business purposes? Des the context of racism clarify things? Or does that hold as much merit for discrimination as homophobia?

    To further the point of my friend above, a business is not a private organization or church. It is a private business instititution ran for public accomodation in a public forum. If the store were built on Chruch grounds to service church needs (eg a religious book and video store), the argument may not apply as it is then in an exclusive and private forum.

    And that would be their right (constitutionally guaranteed) to discriminate against anyone and everyone they deem unfit for equality in their god's eyes (thought they, thus, could hardly assert a Biblical right to be called "Christ Followers" if they did so)

  • 37. G.Tasker  |  November 29, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    You are mistaken…….you will find that some of the apostles ( example St. Peter ) had a wife.

  • 38. JustMe  |  November 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Matthew 28:19

    "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

  • 39. SoCal_Dave  |  November 29, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Teaching them does not equal forcing them.

  • 40. Craig Nelson  |  November 30, 2013 at 2:09 am

    There's a lot of philosophical discussion here that ignores the fact that in the UK legislation has been passed that prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation as well as a number of other grounds. In the UK (as elsewhere) such laws are based in past experiences of overt discrimination against different groups (Irish, Welsh, Black people and so on). Therefore it was found that businesses that offer services to the general public do need to be forbidden from discriminating. Access to accommodation is a vital service and that includes B+Bs and hotels of various sorts. At the time the law covering sexual orientation was considered the issue of B+Bs had great prominence and was hotly debated but the view of the then government and then of Parliament was that there should not be an exemption for B+Bs (there is a narrowly drawn exemption for religious organisations, however).

    Ultimately this case is simply one of a couple backed by religious extremist groups who set about defying the law of the land and lost all their legal cases right up to the Supreme Court because ultimately they have no case. Next stop for christian groups with money to burn is the European Court of Human Rights.

  • 41. Sarah  |  November 30, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Or Protestants. After all, they are the new, upstart and heretical manifestation of Christianity on the world block.

  • 42. Sarah  |  November 30, 2013 at 2:35 am

    Why do you care about what goes on in ancient texts written thousands of years ago by people in the Middle East? It has nothing to do with your culture or people, yet you seem heavily invested in cleansing these stories with your own cultural biases.

    It's rather strange to me that Westerners in the modern, post scientific age are so concerned with parables and aphorisms, all written by the mythological mindset. Who cares if Christ was into dudes? It has absolutely nothing in this world to do with you, and it does not affect your life in any way whatsoever.

  • 43. JustMe  |  November 30, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Correct… but if they are not doing what you are teaching, then there is a problem, no?

  • 44. MightyAcorn  |  November 30, 2013 at 8:10 am

    When those stories and aphorisms are adopted by those in our current culture as justification for homophobia, misogyny, extremism, etc., then it certainly does affect our lives in tangible ways. Remember that next time you're stuck in mall traffic this Christmastime, maybe.

  • 45. MightyAcorn  |  November 30, 2013 at 8:10 am

    That would be Mormonism, actually.

  • 46. SoCal_Dave  |  November 30, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    There is no problem whatsoever. Freedom of religion means I am free to follow those teachings or not. It's not up to you or the government or B&B owners to make that decision for me.

  • 47. KarlS  |  November 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    There are not more than a few thousand. You are right. http://www.godisimaginary.com

  • 48. JustMe  |  November 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Correct… So remind me again "if its not up to the government" why these B&B owners are being fined?

    Why is a gay couple trying to FORCE their beliefs on people who dont believe the same way, but the other way around doesnt work?

  • 49. davep  |  November 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    It is the B&B owners who are trying to force their religious beliefs onto the general public by engaging in unjust discrimination. They are not a private club or a religious organization. They are a business that provides goods or services to the general public. And when you decide to do that, you are required to obey all "Public Accommodation" laws.

    These are civil laws that prohibit businesses from discriminating against members of the general public by denying them goods or services. And 'religious objections' is NOT a legally valid excuse for doing that. If you want to do business with the public, you MUST obey these laws. PERIOD.

    If you want to discriminate against gay people, or black people, or Jewish people, or French people, then you are free to find some other way to make money that doesn't involve providing goods and services to the general public and doesn't involve violating anti-discrimination civil laws. Or you could decide to stop engaging in narrow-minded prejudiced thinking, treat all people fairly, and the problem is solved.

  • 50. JustMe  |  November 30, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    If you want to do business with the public, you MUST obey these laws. PERIOD

    Kinda like "if you like your health plan, you can keep it. PERIOD."

    Rings pretty damn hollow.

    No business HAS to do business with anybody. So by suing these people, the gay couple is FORCING them to do business against their will.

  • 51. davep  |  November 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    That's an illogical comparison because, clearly, it is true that we all MUST obey the law, PERIOD, or face the legal consequences.

    Wow, you have absolutely no idea how civil laws work in a Constitutional Republic, do you? What gives you the idea that someone's personal opinion ought to trump the principles of Constitutional law, and allow them to violate civil laws that guard against unjust discrimination, simply because their personal opinion is based on religious beliefs?

    … and do you have any clue WHY we have laws that guard against businesses discriminating against the public? You might want to look into that before you continue supporting people who want to engage in that unjust and unconstitutional behavior. Think about the history of these laws, and think about what side of history YOU are advocating for.

  • 52. davep  |  November 30, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    "No business HAS to do business with anybody". Tell that to the courts. Again, if your business offers goods or services to the general public, there are civil laws that apply to your business. And no, you cannot just decide to ignore these laws and go ahead and discriminate and refuse to offer those goods or services to someone just because you don't like the race, religion, gender, orientation, or country of origin of the customer. It is against the law. These are called "Public Accommodation Laws". And there are VERY good reasons for these laws. And frankly, it's pretty appalling that anyone should have to explain this to you.

  • 53. SoCal_Dave  |  November 30, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    I fear we are wasting our collective electronic breath, davep, but thank you for your thoughtful and reasoned reply.

  • 54. davep  |  November 30, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    You're welcome. I'm looking forward to the good news from Hawaii in about 25 hours….

  • 55. Straight Dave  |  November 30, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I'm looking forward to good news from NM, too, any day now. C'mon, guys. Get a move on. This decision could almost write itself.

  • 56. JustMe  |  December 1, 2013 at 3:59 am

    "People, for reasons of their own, often fail to do things that would be good for them or good for society. Those failures—joined with the similar failures of others—can readily have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.

    Under the Government’s logic, that authorizes Congress to use its commerce power to compel citizens to act as the Government would have them act. "

    "That is not the country the Framers of our Constitution envisioned."

    "The Framers gave Congress the power to
    regulate commerce, not to compel it, and for over 200 years both our decisions and Congress’s actions have reflected this understanding. There is no reason to depart from that understanding now."

  • 57. John_B_in_DC  |  December 1, 2013 at 6:27 am

    "Render unto Caesar…"?

  • 58. Eric  |  December 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Britain is not part of the U.S.

  • 59. Eric  |  December 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Mormonism is an offshoot of Protestantism. Joseph Smith didn't start off Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, nor from any of the other apostolic sees.

  • 60. MightyAcorn  |  December 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Your second statement doesn't support the assertion of your first, and I was responding to the "new upstart…Christianity" remark.

    And I believe LDS considers itself a completely new revelation, but whatevs.

  • 61. davep  |  December 1, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Sheesh, do you really not understand what this is about? This is NOT about the government "regulating commerce". It is about preventing businesses from engaging in unjust discrimination against certain groups of citizens. And this is important because that discrimination goes against the basic principles of this nation's Constitution. And Public Accommodation laws help to achieve that important goal.

  • 62. JustMe  |  December 2, 2013 at 2:25 am

    "It is about preventing businesses from engaging in unjust discrimination against certain groups of citizens."

    So me not wanting to do business with you (because you are gay), by renting you a place to stay in my business is "unjust discrimination"?

    Last time I checked both parties to a contract have to agree to the contract. If the Government is telling me that I MUST rent to you even though it goes against what I stand for as a business, then that is government intrusion on my right to NOT contract to do business with folks I dont want to.

  • 63. JustMe  |  December 2, 2013 at 2:33 am

    And dont you understand what this is all about?

    My RIGHT to liberty is just as great and equal as your right to liberty.

    My RIGHT to not enter into a contract with someone I dont wish to is just as great and equal as yours.

  • 64. SoCal_Dave  |  December 2, 2013 at 5:35 am

    So you want to return to the days when a business chooses to refuse blacks a place at their lunch counter? Where a bus service refuses to let blacks sit in the front of the bus? That's the side of history you identify with. Good luck with that.

  • 65. Eric Koszyk  |  December 2, 2013 at 6:13 am

    What's with all the anti-gay trolls lately?

    More important why are we engaging them in debate? That's what they want. We should ignore them; their arguments aren't worth debunking anyway.

  • 66. davep  |  December 2, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Short answer is YES, a business refusing its goods or services to a customer simply because of prejudice against a group IS unjust discrimination.
    Don't like it? You should have spoken up about it SEVERAL DECADES AGO when these laws were being drafted. This is very, very old news, and long established law. Public Accommodation laws have been on the books long, long before same sex couples were marrying.

  • 67. MightyAcorn  |  December 2, 2013 at 8:47 am

    We've always had them. It's worth pointing them out ourselves since we don't have very active admin here. It's the spammers-on-old-threads I wish someone would deal with; those are fairly new and we don't have any control over that (except to hit the "Report" button, which doesn't seem very effective.)

    They just can't stand that we're winning, plus they clearly don't have any effective coping mechanisms for dealing with their anger and jealousy. Trolls are losers, what else can you say?

  • 68. davep  |  December 2, 2013 at 8:52 am

    But a BUSINESS does not have a RIGHT to engage in unjust discrimination. If you really, really want your business to be allowed to discriminate against certain types of people, feel free to take your "cause" to court and try to challenge these laws by convincing the court that you have a valid case. That would be hilarious!

  • 69. davep  |  December 2, 2013 at 8:56 am

    You said: "My RIGHT to not enter into a contract with someone I dont wish to is just as great and equal as yours. " Yes, so if I had a business I would have to obey all of the same Public Accommodation laws that YOUR business has to obey. If our businesses are offering goods and services to the public, neither of us would be allowed to engage in unjust discrimination against customers based on prejudice.

  • 70. Eric  |  December 2, 2013 at 10:33 am

    A new revelation that uses the KJV as the church's official English Bible.

    Protestantism is a new upstart heterodoxy, as are its derivative works like Mormonism.

  • 71. MightyAcorn  |  December 2, 2013 at 10:41 am

    It must be so frustrating to have such low reading comprehension. Reread my comment above until you understand it, and take your argumentativeness elsewhere. Buh-bye.

  • 72. JustMe  |  December 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Yes and at the time it was a CRIME to commit sodomy, so no one thought to include these premises for "public accomodations". Since it was illegal, noone could have foreseen it to be discrimination.

  • 73. Phillip K  |  December 3, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    You are still required to follow state law in order to obtain a business license. It's simple as that.

    If following business laws runs contrary to your religious beliefs, then perhaps you shouldn't own a business? Nobody said you have to do both.

  • 74. davep  |  December 3, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Nope. The Supreme Court ruling that overturned the unconstitutional laws against private consensual behavior and the Civil Rights act that resulted in these Public Accommodation laws occurred in 1964 and 1965. It's not likely that any currently existing Bed & Breakfast existed prior to that. Anybody who has opened such a business in the past FIFTY YEARS has been aware of these laws. If you really feel that you should be allowed to own a business and that you business should be allowed to discriminate against people based on prejudice, you are not just living in the past. You are delusional.

  • 75. Two Dads  |  December 4, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Just me..you got served your a-s-s on a platter in this convo and LOST and lost bad! Move on little kid. And take your bible with you

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