The judgment in the appeal case of B&B owners, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, has been reserved – meaning a ruling is not expected to be given for several weeks.
The Bulls are seeking to overturn a ruling by a previous judge who said their policy of restricting double rooms to married couples discriminated against homosexuals.
Their double room policy is applied equally to all unmarried couples – whether homosexual or heterosexual – and is an outworking of their religious beliefs about sex outside marriage.
But in January a court ruled that their policy discriminated directly against Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall – a homosexual couple in a civil partnership who booked a double room at the Bulls’ guesthouse.
The Bulls were ordered to pay £3,600 in damages. After the ruling two national newspapers said gay rights laws had gone too far and called on Parliament to revise the law.
In the appeal hearing this week, the Bulls’ barrister James Dingemans QC said the religious rights of the Bulls should be respected on an equal footing with the rights of others.
He said the effect of the previous ruling was to allow sexual orientation rights to trump religious rights. He said: “neither side should be 1-0 up, nor 1-0 down”.
Mr Preddy and Mr Hall’s case is supported by the taxpayer-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Preddy and Hall’s barrister responded to the appeal, saying that the Bulls’ policy amounted to direct discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation – because homosexual couples could never satisfy the Bulls’ policy – and that the previous ruling should be upheld.
The appeal was heard by three Court of Appeal judges, who reserved their judgment. No date has been set for the judgment to be handed down, but it is not expected for several weeks.