Homophobic aristocrat claims public support his civil partnerships ban

Tony Grew July 9, 2008
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A castle owner who had his civil wedding licence revoked for discriminating against same-sex couples says that bookings for receptions are up as a result of his prejudicial stance.

As of January 2009 the Earl of Devon will no longer be able to host straight wedding ceremonies at Powderham Castle near Exeter after he claimed his religious beliefs precluded him from allowing civil partnerships ceremonies at the castle.

“I had more than 250 emails and letters in support and only three against,” the pious aristocrat told the Exeter Express and Echo.

“I even had a letter from a gay man supporting my right to decide what happens in my house against all the forces of political correctness.

“We are still in business for wedding receptions and are already noticing an increase in demand for next year.

“Without the constraints of the civil wedding licence, we hope to be able to offer a service of blessing or possibly even a conventional marriage ceremony in the castle chapel, though only for small numbers.”

The castle is also used a concert venue. Boyzone will be playing there later this month.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations, which came into force last year, make it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation when providing goods, facilities and services.

The Earl, Hugh Courtenay, refused to allow Bernard Horrocks, 40, and Glenn Sontag, 35, to hold their ceremony at his property.

The couple contacted Stonewall, who wrote to Devon County Council about the hereditary peer and pointed out that he was in breach of the law.

As a result of the Earl’s discriminatory actions Powderham Castle had its civil marriage licence revoked.

Gay equality organisation Stonewall described their decision to revoke his licence as “significant.”

It is the first time such action has been taken against a venue in light of the SORs.

Civil partnerships became legal in December 2005.

“In previous cases we have written to people, pointed out to them the law and they resolved it and effectively backed down,” said Jonathan Finney from Stonewall.

“Where people are running businesses, most realise they will be losing money and change their mind.

“The couple came to us for some support – a lot of time all that people want is a resolution.

“A lot of lesbian, gay and bisexual people do not know the law is there to protect them.”

Mr Finney said that since the SORs came into force Stonewall has supported a significant number of LGB people who were facing discrimination from hotels, campsites and other amenities, and the vast majority of cases are resolved satisfactorily.

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