This is a strange little test of the UK's new equality legislation as many B&B owners there have apparently been operating under the impression that they just opened up their houses to guests but that they aren't really businesses (building codes and taxes aside).
The straight couple being sued here own a hotel in Cornwall and they say they've had a policy to keep unmarried couples out. Wasn't the deal with any hotel with such an outdated policy was that they were supposed to be charmingly naive about two men or two women traveling together as well? Alberto and I stayed in a hotel with a similar policy in Tangier, but no one asked us for a marriage certificate.
This couple of hoteliers seems to have been around the block and told the gays, after they had reserved and showed up, that they wouldn't be able to stay. Now they tell the court that they were set up:
Yesterday, at Bristol County Court Bernie Quinn, who works at the hotel, hinted that Mr Preddy and Mr Hall's booking was a set-up.
Mr Quinn explained that gay rights organisation Stonewall had written to Mr and Mrs Bull a month earlier advising them of new equality legislation.
He told the court that hours before Mr Preddy had made a telephone booking in September 2008 he spoke to a ''Mrs Preddy'' regarding a double room.
The claimants' barrister, Catherine Casserley, asked Mr Quinn: ''Are you suggesting this claim was a set-up?''
Mr Quinn agreed and added: ''It is not beyond the realms of possibility. I have no proof other than the phone call.
''I cannot assume for them what their motivations were or weren't. I assumed, going back to the phone call, that we were expecting a Mr and Mrs Preddy and what arrived was two gentlemen.''
Who knows if Steven Preddy isn't such a big flamer he isn't read as a woman over the phone from time to time. While a strong sense of victimology and belief in conspiracy theories is part and parcel with being a conservative Christian, it seems a bit much to argue that in court without much proof. Then again, it's all about them, and they seem to show no understanding that when opening a public business a person can't just follow their personal morality, they have to follow the law.
The article goes on with the straight couple explaining their religion, their beliefs on marriage, etc., but the couple in question never seems to explain why it's such a fundamental part of their religion to impose their views of marriage and sex on others. Whether the couple being turned away is gay or straight, there should be some limits on the power of hotel owners to use their business to interfere with their guests' legal contracts and sex lives. (And if they have a problem with other people's sex lives, then perhaps hotel ownership isn't for them.)
And sex is what they're saying this case comes down to:
Making legal submissions, their barrister James Dingemans QC said: "It is not part of the defendants' case to undermine the rights of same-sex partners.
"The defendants do submit their policy is directed to sex and not sexual orientation and is lawful."
I don't see how something can be about banning certain people who have sex with each other and not be about sexual orientation. I don't know if discrimination against unmarried couples is just fine in the UK, so maybe it's just a legal defense, but gay sex will always fall outside of whatever boundaries these sorts set up on acceptable sexual behavior.
Whether same-sex marriage is legal in the UK isn't the point since they would just argue that they don't believe in it (the hotel owners didn't seem to care much about the gays' civil partnership). Unless they ban all sex in their hotel, the policy is larger than sex itself and is about who's doing what with whom, and that to me is pretty much the same thing as blocking people of certain sexual orientations.