|The Bulls: "Not while you're under my roof, you don't!"|
On 18 January 2011 His Honour Judge Rutherford handed down judgment at Bristol County Court in the case of Hall and Preddy v Bull and Bull. Martin Hall and Steven Preddy, who had contracted a civil partnership with each other under the Civil Partnership Act 2004, had booked a double room at the Chymorvah Hotel, run by Mr and Mrs Bull, for the nights of 5 and 6 September 2008. The learned Judge appears to have accepted that they made the booking in ignorance of the fact that the hotel operated a policy whereby double rooms were let to “heterosexual married couples only”. Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were informed of this fact by an employee of the hotel on their arrival and left to secure alternative accommodation. They then proceeded to bring a claim against Mr and Mrs Bull for damages and a declaration to the effect that they had been subject to unlawful discrimination. The claim was founded on the provisions of the Equality Act (Sexual Discrimination) Regulations 2007.
The relevant provisions of the Regulations are as follows. Under Regulation 3(1), direct discrimination is defined as the state of affairs which obtains when “A treats B less favourably less favourably than he would treat others” on the grounds of B’s (or another’s) sexual orientation “in cases where there is no material difference in the circumstances”. Indirect discrimination is defined by Regulation 3(3) as a criterion or practice (a) applied equally by A, but which (b) “puts persons of B’s sexual orientation at a disadvantage compared to some or all others”, (c) “which puts B at a disadvantage compared to some or all persons who are not of his sexual orientation”, and (d) which A cannot reasonably justify by reference to matters other than B’s sexual orientation. As with Regulation 3(1), it applied where there is “no material difference in the circumstances” of B and those with whom he is compared. Regulation 3(4) reads thus: “For the purposes of paragraphs (1) and (3), the fact that one of the persons (whether or not B) is a civil partner while the other is married shall not be treated as a material difference in the relevant circumstances....”
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