Riddle me this

Why is it unacceptable for Peter and Hazelmary Bull to deny a double room to any couple on the grounds of their marital status, but perfectly acceptable for the clubs G.A.Y. and Heaven to refuse entry to women on the grounds that they “look too straight”?

The answer is that the Bull’s B&B will automatically fall foul of the Equality Act because they refuse to treat civil partnerships in the same way as marriage.

In many ways it is a shame that this case was brought to court, given that the couple were clearly in breach of the law and were doomed to failure from the outset, although it has brought the bigots out in force.

“We know people have deeply held ‘beliefs’ about homosexuality. That’s why we need legislation” screamed one. Orwell himself could not have written a better line about thought crime. We know that people will hold beliefs entirely separate to ours, therefore we need legislation to stop them from acting upon their morals? The function of legislation is to stop people from exercising their own free will?

Though no lawyer, it seems that the question of harm needs to come into play here. What harm is there from the proprietor of any business deciding who they may admit on their premises? It needs to be noted that the Bulls were not, in any event attempting to deny the use of their services to this couple, they were not denying them entry to the B&B, what they were doing was refusing them the use of a double room, in line with their policy. Had two separate rooms been available, then Mr Hall & Mr Preddy would have been perfectly welcome to avail themselves of the hospitality on offer. On an individual level the only “harm” caused to the couple, was that of hurt feelings and thus £1,800 apiece seems a disproportionate amount of compensation. A more realistic and just figure would have been a couple of hundred pounds between the couple to compensate them for the expenses incurred in having to arrange travel to a different hotel and the costs of a hotel room.

There is of course inherent harm in a society that wishes to negatively discriminate against people on the grounds of sexuality, race, gender or creed and no-0ne wishes to see a return to the days of hotels displaying signs stating “no Irish, no blacks” etc and thus it is important that legislation remains in place. It’s all about finding the middle ground, but this ruling does highlight the inconsistency in the law. A premises may withhold entry on the grounds on sexuality, as has happened to me in the past when out with members of gay cabin crew. I completely understand that like-minded people wish to have an environment in which they may relax and socialise without the threat of intimidation, which is why various establishments reserve the right to deny entry.

What I don’t understand is why a couple, who have a deeply-held and rational belief are penalised for running an establishment on the grounds of religion, yet another establishment is able to run their establishment on the grounds of sexuality? Why is one acceptable and not the other? Why could this couple not run their B&B according to their faith principles? Because it unfairly excluded a section of society? Could not the same principle be applied to high-profile nightclubs who refuse entry on the grounds of appearance, thus denying, as happened to me, the chance to see a certain performer? (Yes, I admit, to my everlasting embarrassment, I was attempting to see Kylie Minogue).

As a Christian I loathe the current narrative of persecution as it denigrates the suffering of those who have genuinely suffered the most horrific and abhorrent persecution, being a Christian does not entail gruesome torture and death, such as in the days of the Emperor Nero when Christians were covered in tar and pitch, crucified and set alight as human torches, through which the Emperor would stage nighttime chariot races. Nor do we face a holocaust like the one that decimated the lives of at least 6 million Jews in the middle of the twentieth century. To invite such comparisons invites justifiable ridicule and does nothing to advance the debate.

What the judgement does highlight is both the bigotry of others towards Christian beliefs, with tweeters triumphantly awarding the Bulls obscene awards amounting to “idiot of the year” couched in extremely offensive language, as well as the fact that to be a Christian is counter-cultural. Though this is to be expected, holding a counter-cultural viewpoint should not demand legislation.

The judge noted that the ruling “does affect the human rights of the defendants to manifest their religion and forces them to act in a manner contrary to their deeply and genuinely held beliefs.” and sensibly gave them leave to appeal.

This is the heart of the matter. How do we manage to balance conflicting interests in a fair and just society? How do we ensure that neither side is unfairly treated or marginalised?

It seems apparent that this particular case was a stitch-up job. The homosexual couple deliberately sought out this hotel and were determined to find offence and prove their point. It is unfortunate that due to illness on the day of the booking, the question about the couple’s marital status, which is normally pointed out to guests, was omitted. One does also have to question whether or not calling the police when one is refused entry to a premises is an instinctive or premeditated reaction?

The UK is renowned for its tolerance and diversity. We now have to ask ourselves some uncomfortable and searching questions about our identity. Are we prepared to live in a society which disbars people from entering certain professions or going into business by nature of their religious beliefs? Do we want legislation to prevent any discrimination whatsoever taking place? If so, then surely we need to make the existing legislation more consistent?

Is all discrimination bad and to be outlawed in the name of equality? Or is some discrimination better than others?

25 thoughts on “Riddle me this

  1. Because the owners of GAY are attempting to provide a nightclub for gay people to feel safe in, and therefore on certain extremely busy nights, it’s necessary to restrict entry. Gay people don’t enjoy the freedom to be themselves in any other nightclub facility other than one identifying itself as gay.

    The Bull’s were refusing service to a couple based purely on the grounds that they were unmarried. They were, however, in a Civil Partnership, and so should have been afforded the same rights (legally) as if they were married. It wasn’t done to protect their other customers, or because the B&B was exclusively for Christians, it was because they didn’t approve.

    That’s a big difference, in my book.

    1. Gay people don’t enjoy the freedom to be themselves in any other nightclub facility other than one identifying itself as gay.

      What utter nonsense. On a personal level I have enjoyed socialising with gay people in pubs and nightclubs that were not exclusively gay. They certainly had no problem with their freedoms. What freedoms do they not enjoy? Does that mean people of any particular gender, race or creed may only enjoy the freedom to “be themselves” in clubs which cater exclusively only for people who share their characteristics?

      My post outlined that they fell foul of the Equality law which states that civil partnerships must be treated in the same way as marriage.

      It wasn’t done to protect their other customers, or because the B&B was exclusively for Christians, it was because they didn’t approve.
      That’s a big difference, in my book.

      You cannot state that GAY refusing entry to a lesbian who does not present a sufficiently gay appearance is solely for the protection of other customers. I also fail to see what threat females may pose to homosexual males. The B&B was run on the principles of traditional Christian morality. You do not wish people to be able to exercise their religious freedom when it comes to running a business? Believers’ religious freedoms must be subordinated to others’ rights to buy things? The fact that the owners did not approve means that they must be prosecuted and penalised?

      There we see thought crime in action. Welcome to our Brave New World.

  2. Can you imagine a gay couple being openly affectionate towards each other in a “straight” nightclub? I’ve also socialised with gay friends outside of gay clubs. But they aren’t able to demonstrate their relationship in the same way as myself and my fiance are. I think your dismissal of these issues as “utter nonsense” demonstrates just how little understanding you might have on the issue.

    I didn’t state that GAY refusing entry was to protect their other customers. The idea that their religious freedoms are compromised is not true. No one says that you cannot have these beliefs or hold those opinions. However,the law says you cannot use those beliefs to adversely affect the lives of others. The Bulls freedom to believe in God or Christianity was not questioned. What they attempted to do, was to use those beliefs as a reason to discriminate against other people, and that was what caused the issue.

    1. You said that the couple were not refused entry in order to protect customers thereby implying that nightclubs refused entry in order to protect clientele. You also talked about providing a nightclub for people to feel safe in. Therefore you are justifying an exclusion policy on the basis of protection.

      I thought you might be talking about physical manifestations of affection in your talk of “freedom”. There is no law preventing this, therefore your claim that a gay nightclub is the only safe environment for this to occur is flawed. People might feel uncomfortable with displaying affection in public, but living in Brighton this is not something I experience. I have worked as cabin crew as you are well aware, where an overwhelming majority of my colleagues were gay. I would wager therefore, that my experience and understanding are well grounded in fact. None of my friends or former colleagues have ever displayed any reticence about publicly displaying affection towards each other. There is no legal basis on which gay couples may claim that they are unable to manifest physical signs of affection in public. I would argue that hetrosexual mixed race couples experience more prejudice than gay couples.

      By discussing the issues of safety and freedom you invoked the element of protection, whether you accept this or not. Of course the Bull’s religious freedoms are compromised which is why the judge has given them leave to appeal and stated that their human rights to practice their religion are affected. The law is very muddled on this issue and thus it merits further discussion.

      The judge actually did the Bulls a big favour here. Given the current law he had no option other than to find for the complainants, but he is encouraging an appeal, noting that there are bigger issues at stake beyond his remit. He has recognised the serious implications of the general right to exercise one’s religious choices and preferences.

      From the judgement itself:

      c. this decision does affect the human rights of the defendants to manifest their religion and forces them to act in a manner contrary to their deeply and genuinely held beliefs
      d. there is little or no direct authority on the issues I have had to decide.

      63. I therefore propose to depart from my normal practice and, assuming that the defendants are so advised, I give permission to appeal

      Perhaps if you don’t want to claim that you have been misquoted you need to be more discerning and accurate in your choice of language. Describing safety and freedom elements imply that a level of protection is required and indeed you stated that the Bulls did not employ this policy in order to protect clientele. Why do GAY and Heaven and other gay nightclubs refuse entry to straight and lesbian females who appear too straight if not to protect other customers’ freedom and safety as you stated? Is it because they only cater for a homosexual clientele. In which case that is discrimination, like it or not.

      1. “There is no law preventing this [public displays of
        affection between gay couples], therefore your claim that a gay
        nightclub is the only safe environment for this to occur is flawed.
        People might feel uncomfortable with displaying affection in
        public, but living in Brighton this is not something I experience.
        I have worked as cabin crew as you are well aware, where an
        overwhelming majority of my colleagues were gay. I would wager
        therefore, that my experience and understanding are well grounded
        in fact.” There may not be a law against it, but that doesn’t mean
        it’s safe or won’t result in stares/comments/jibes. Brighton is a
        NOTORIOUSLY gay friendly town. You can’t really use it as
        representative of the nation as a whole. Likewise an airline. As
        you say, there is a large percentage of gay employees in that
        industry, so people there will be more used to/accepting of people
        being openly gay. I used to work in a bingo hall, which was very
        much the same. I’m not sure why, but there’s a relatively high
        percentage of gay men working in bingo (or at least there was in my
        workplace, it may not be representative). While a gay couple there
        (and there were a few) would feel comfortable holding
        hands/whatever at work, they certainly couldn’t do it in most
        places in the town, especially the local pubs/nightclubs. They’d be
        very likely to be verbally abused at the very least. The sad fact
        is that many people in this country are not quite as enlightened as
        all that.

      2. To clarify by “gay agenda” I mean the powerful political agenda taken up by groups such as Stonewall, who, in my opinion, wish to see the rights of the gay community supersede all other rights.

        As you conceded, the likelihood is there was a pre-determined effort to test and legally punish the B&B owners for their perceived intolerance. It disturbs me that the cost of this case was underwritten by a government quango and could have led to the financial ruin of an elderly couple, who were not acting with any malice, but simply attempting to live by their authentic beliefs, which were not motivated by hatred. The determination of the gay lobby to mercilessly pursue this elderly couple, if necessary to financial ruin leads me to believe that their agenda of stamping out any kind of discrimination must be put above the religious freedoms of others.

        Peter Tatchell and Stonewall are equally determined to criminalise anyone who does not wish to endorse a homosexual lifestyle, such as religious institutions. Mr Tatchell in particular has spoken about the desire to force Churches to perform marriage ceremonies. This is what I perceive as a “gay agenda”, which admittedly is not representative of the gay community in its entirety, the desire to prosecute, criminalise and certainly stigmatise those who whilst not wishing to persecute, also do not wish to give implied consent. My suggestion is that in this particular case it was the gay couple who proved to be the most intolerant, after all they were not denied accommodation, but simply a double room.

  3. “Why is it unacceptable for Peter and Hazelmary Bull to deny a double room to any couple on the grounds of their marital status, but perfectly acceptable for the clubs G.A.Y. and Heaven to refuse entry to women on the grounds that they “look too straight”?”

    To answer your question as it is literally phrased: from a legal standpoint, neither is acceptable. I had a look at that group but could see no evidence that any of the posters who have been turned away from G-A-Y or other gay nightclubs have challenged their door policy in court. If they did, I think there’s a good chance they would win.

    However to answer what I believe the spirit of the rhetorical question to be: anti-straight discrimination is generally perceived as less of a problem than anti-gay discrimination because heterosexual people have never suffered institutional discrimination. No one has ever persecuted, imprisoned or executed anyone purely based on the fact that they were heterosexual, whereas homosexuals have experienced exactly those things.

    People have had to fight long and hard to find acceptance for gay people in society and in the law, and the fight is still, and will probably always be ongoing.

    I’m personally very glad that there are people willing to fight to stamp out discrimination where they find it, whoever the victims of the discrimination may be.

  4. “It seems apparent that this particular case was a
    stitch-up job. The homosexual couple deliberately sought out this
    hotel and were determined to find offence and prove their point. It
    is unfortunate that due to illness on the day of the booking, the
    question about the couple’s marital status, which is normally
    pointed out to guests, was omitted. One does also have to question
    whether or not calling the police when one is refused entry to a
    premises is an instinctive or premeditated reaction?” I agree with
    you that this does appear to have been, as you refer to it, a
    “stitch-up job”, in that I have read that the couple deliberately
    sought out this hotel because they wanted to bring to light the
    fact that there was discriminatory behaviour going on there. I have
    no trouble believing that that is true. However, that doesn’t
    change the fact that the proprietors WERE breaking the law. Plus,
    the couple were/are as married as the law will allow a gay couple
    to be. They cannot be married in the literal sense of the word,
    because in this country it is still considered too controversial to
    allow a gay couple to be married, so they have to be given a
    halfway house “civil partnership”. I personally think that’s
    utterly shameful, and if the had been allowed to marry, this
    situation would probably never have occurred.

  5. “There is no law preventing this, therefore your claim that
    a gay nightclub is the only safe environment for this to occur is
    flawed. People might feel uncomfortable with displaying affection
    in public, but living in Brighton this is not something I
    experience. I have worked as cabin crew as you are well aware,
    where an overwhelming majority of my colleagues were gay. I would
    wager therefore, that my experience and understanding are well
    grounded in fact.” Ah. so physical assaults on gay people are all a
    figment of their imagination? There is no law against being
    yourself. However, there is a strong possibility that outside of
    gay strongholds like Brighton, or Canal St, Manchester, the act of
    showing physical affection towards a same sex partner can mark you
    out as a target. Knowing gay people doesn’t imply an understanding
    of the issues, which is patently evident in your opinion that gay
    people can happily go about their business, acting in exactly the
    same way as a heterosexual couple, without any concern for
    repercussions. GAY’s door policy has angered a lot of the gay
    community. Or rather, comments made by the owner regarding a
    specific concert. In any case, the club is exempt from
    discrimination laws in that it exists to provide a service for gay
    people (the same as Christian society can exclude non Christians,
    on the basis that its ethos is Christian). I am perfectly happy
    with my use of language, thanks. I think its quite clear what I was
    saying.

    1. Gay people CAN go about their business in exactly the same way as hetrosexual people. I am staggered you suggest otherwise. This persecution narrative does no-one any favours. Assaults sadly take place, but I am doubtful whether or not the existence of specialist clubs has any impact on their numbers.

      Gay nightclubs refusing to provide goods & services to members of the heterosexual community is exactly the same type of discrimination, like it or not.

    2. Furthermore I find it hilarious that you as a straight person claim to be a definitive spokesman on gay issues and that any opposing viewpoints indicate an inherent misunderstanding.

      I would suggest that my understanding is every bit as nuanced as yours, however you miss the point that this particular couple set out to find offence.

    1. I agree this was a shocking attack. But is this the norm and would this take place inside the confines of a nightclub which has security on the inside as well as on the door?

  6. I fear your statement (smear?) that this was a “stitch up job”, may be libellous. I suggest you download and read the finding of facts in the judgment itself. The judge was clear that the claimants were acting in good faith. Also, on the level of damages, the judge makes it clear that if this had been a “stitch up job” the level of damages would have been nominal (very small), whereas he awarded damages to reflect the embarrassment and humiliation suffered by the gay couple in front of other guests as well as having to get the help of the police to find other accommodation, there being none other available for them at the hotel. You can obtain the judgment here:

    http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/media/judgments/2011/hall-preddy-bull-judgment

    1. Thank you for the link to the judgement, I have read it already, and I appreciate that the judge does not have enough evidence to suggest that the couple were acting in a pre-meditated way. They did originally ask for £5,000 damages and were awarded £1,800. I also appreciated that even if it was pre-meditated that doesn’t change the law. I cannot help but feel some sympathy for the Bulls however.

  7. Thanks for your reply. The judge was very clear that he
    believed both couples, and that they all acted totally in good
    faith. He totally accepted the credibility of the gay couple, as
    apparently has Mrs. Bull. He didn’t really comment on the cousin
    who was the manager of the hotel. To suggest that the gay couple
    were part of “a stitch up” is simply encouraging the paranoia and
    fear of gays that some people have that constitutes
    homophobia.

  8. I believe the distinction with clubs is that because they
    are private clubs they may decide on matters of membership and
    arrest reasonable control over admission of guests. It occurs to me
    that somebody really determined to operate a guest house as the
    Bulls did could run it as a private club. Otherwise they have to
    treat their guests according to the law pertaining to public
    businesses.

  9. Duh! Owing to a typo on my predictive text phone, the word
    “arrest” above should read as “assert”. My apologies for not
    catching that earlier, and for any confusion arising.

  10. I agree with Tony. The law on private clubs (as far as gay
    rights and religious rights, certain other protected groups) IS
    equal – both are allowed to operate in line with their
    views/beliefs. So a Christain club can also reserve the right to
    only admit christains, for example – but not where they admit a
    variety of clientele, but discriminate against one paricular group,
    which would then amount to discrimination. The B and B doesn’t fall
    into that catagory, so comparing the two (gay club and B and B) is
    like comparing apples and pears.

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