Liberty victory for B&B discrimination couple

18 October 2012

Liberty’s clients Michael Black and John Morgan today won the case which they brought after they were refused a room at a Berkshire Bed and Breakfast because they are a gay couple.

The court found that the couple had suffered unlawful discrimination at the hands of the B&B owner when she wouldn’t provide them a double room on their arrival, despite their reservation and fully paid deposit. At the time, Mr Black protested at this treatment but the owner refused to allow them to stay as it was “against her convictions”.

The judge who heard the case in Reading County Court in mid-September found that Black and Morgan suffered direct discrimination, i.e. that the B&B owner refused to give them a room because they are gay. The judge also made clear that, even if she had not found direct discrimination, she would have found that the B&B owner’s professed policy of only giving double rooms to married couples was indirectly discriminatory.

The judge dismissed the owner’s argument that she had not acted in a discriminatory way because she objected to homosexual sexual behaviour rather than homosexual sexual orientation. It was also found that, although the refusal of a room could be seen as a manifestation of the owner’s religious beliefs, her right to manifest these beliefs was not unfairly limited by the Equality Act - which requires that service providers do not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.

James Welch, legal director of Liberty, said: “Liberty defends the rights of religious groups to manifest their beliefs, even when we disagree with them. But it is simply unacceptable for people running a business to refuse to provide a service because of someone’s sexual orientation. Hopefully today’s ruling signals the death knell of such ‘no gays’ policies – policies that would never be tolerated if they referred to a person’s race, gender or religion.”

Contact: Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 made it unlawful for service providers to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. These regulations have now been replaced – and effectively re-enacted by – the Equality Act 2010.