The Christian couple at the centre of a court case around gay rights and religious freedom say they may have to close their hotel if barred from discriminating against gay couples.

Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who own the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Cornwall, are being sued for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

In 2008, they refused to let civil partners Martin Hall and Steven Preddy stay in a room with a double bed because they are both men.

At Bristol country court today, their lawyer James Dingemans QC said that if they were not allowed to retain their policy of only allowing straight married couples to share rooms, they would have to shut their hotel.

The Bulls state on their website that they will only let heterosexual married couples share rooms. They say that their longstanding policy applies to all unmarried couples, whether gay or straight but they do not check whether couples are legally married.

Catherine Casserley, the lawyer for Mr Hall and Mr Preddy, argued that the couple were being discriminated against purely on the basis of their sexual orientation because straight couples could pretend to be married.

According to Press Association, she said: “Nobody wants to see the defendants out of business, but we say they have to abide by the law. They either have to change their policy or offer single rooms to everyone.”

The Bulls claimed that they had been the victims of a sting but Mr Preddy and Mr Hall denied this.

The court will give a judgment after Christmas.