The Christian owners of a guesthouse in Cornwall are facing legal action from a homosexual couple after they were refused a double room.
Since buying the guesthouse in 1986, Peter and Hazelmary Bull have operated a policy of only offering double rooms to married couples.
However, homosexual Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy are now taking the couple to court under controversial new equality laws.
When Mr Preddy booked a double room by telephone last September, Mrs Bull assumed he would be staying with his wife.
When the two men arrived, the guesthouse’s manager said it could not accommodate them. Mr Preddy and Mr Hall said the manager was breaking the law and went away to inform the police.
The previous month the Bulls had received a letter from homosexual lobby group Stonewall claiming that their marriage policy was against the law.
Mr Hall and Mr Preddy are now alleging direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and are each seeking up to £5,000 in damages.
Mr and Mrs Bull, who are being supported by The Christian Institute’s legal defence fund, have hit the headlines in the past for turning down heterosexual couples who were not married.
At the time of the incident the guesthouse’s online booking page stated: “We have few rules but please note that out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only.”
Mrs Bull, a 62-year-old great-grandmother, said: “I have had people clearly involved in affairs and under-age people who have tried to book in here for sex, and I have refused them the same as I refused these gentlemen because I won’t be a party to anything which is an affront to my faith under my roof.”
The couple’s solicitor, Tom Ellis, from the Manchester-based firm Aughton Ainsworth, said: “Our argument is that the regulations impinge on the Bulls’ human rights.
“Under the European Convention on Human Rights, people are able to hold a religious belief and manifest it in the way they act.”
A spokesman for Stonewall said: “We look forward to the hotel changing its policy to reflect equality, the 21st Century and the law.”
The Bulls are accused of infringing the sexual orientation regulations brought in under the Equality Act 2006.
Before they were introduced The Christian Institute and others warned that the regulations would cause problems for Christians holding orthodox beliefs about marriage.
Mrs Bull said: “In 26 years we have never really had a problem with it. I have found people to be very good and understanding. They realise that they are pursuing one lifestyle while we are pursuing another.”