Many of you will already know that there has been a ruling in favour of a civilly partnered couple , Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall, in their case against Mr and Mrs Bull who refused them a double bed at their B&B. I strongly agree that this is the right ruling. The Bull's defence was that they had not discriminated because they only offer double rooms to married couples, whether gay or straight. This meant that the issue at stake was whether a civil partnership is equal in law to a marriage, clearly it is, and as gay people cannot get married anyhow, the Bulls did discriminate. This ruling will send out the right message - that lesbian and gay people are protected by law and are equal citizens.
There has been a major shift both in attitudes to homosexuality and also in the legal standing of gay people during the last few decades. I do think that the rapid pace of change has left some people, such as the Bulls, struggling to cope with the fact that they may hold certain views, but they can no longer act on those views with impunity when it harms or inconveniences those concerned. Nor can they complain that it was "their own home" any more than they could presumably make that case if they gave their guests food poisoning through poor hygiene, or jeopardised their safety in some way; they were providing goods and services.
However, I do think the judge was right to take time to consider the case carefully and to look at the issues involved, because both parties did think they had a case. One of the problems that is being raised by a number of voices is whether Christians themselves are discriminated against. I have to say that I know nothing about the law as it relates to the entitlement that people have not to be denied goods and services because of their faith. Could a Bed and Breakfast set up largely to cater for gay couples, for example, turn people away on the grounds that they were Christian? (I hope not!)
A few years ago, just as the equality legislation had come into force, someone I knew was organising a retreat/ conference for LGBT Christians. There was a dinner dance organised for the final night and she booked a gay DJ - really to ensure that she had someone who would be at ease in a such an environment. However, on receiving the details the DJ phoned back to cancel saying that he was not prepared to offer his services to a Christian group! He considered it irrelevant that this was a gay Christian group, part of his reasoning was that he would find the environment of a Christian centre intimidating, but he also made it clear that he did not approve of Christians. The deposit was fully refunded, the organiser did not make a complaint, but was he discriminating unfairly, should he have put his prejudices to one side and would his refusal be illegal today?
"This equality legislation is going to be a minefield", said the person recounting this story to me.