Discrimination would have become “rampant” again if a Christian hotel couple had won the right to bar gay couples, LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell has said.
He said that if Peter and Hazelmary Bull had won their case, the judgment would have set a precedent for countless claims.
“If the court had ruled that the Bull’s were allowed to ban gay couples from sleeping together in the same room, it would have opened the floodgates to a deluge of similar religious-motivated claims for exemption from the equality laws,” he said.
“We could have ended up with some Jewish supermarket workers demanding the right to not handle pork, Muslim restaurant staff refusing to serve alcohol and Christian solicitors declining to represent gay or cohabiting heterosexual couples.
“Businesses would grind to a halt, and social cohesion decline, as religious fundamentalists of all hues claimed the right to discriminate on faith grounds. Our equality laws would soon be in shreds. Discrimination would become rampant again. It would be hugely damaging to harmonious community relations.”
The Bulls, who own the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Cornwall, were sued by gay civil partners Martin Hall and Steven Preddy after they were barred from staying in a double room in 2008.
Mr Hall and Mr Preddy won their case for discrimination today and were each awarded £1,800 each in damages.
The Bulls had argued that they ban all unmarried couples from sharing rooms because of their Christian beliefs.
However, a council member of the National Secular Society, Dr Ray Newton, claimed he stayed in a double room at the hotel with an unmarried partner – using another name – and was not challenged by the Bulls.
The Christian Institute, which supported the hotel owners, claimed that the ruling was “further evidence that equality laws are being used as a sword rather than a shield”. The Bulls were given leave to appeal today’s ruling.
But Mr Tatchell said: “Peter and Hazelmary were offering a service to the public by providing hotel accommodation. Everyone who provides services to the public should do so without discrimination. That’s the law. People of faith cannot legitimately claim exemption from equality laws that apply to everyone else. “