Owners of UK guest house receive death threats after refusing double bedroom to homosexual pair; forced to sell property
A Christian couple who refused to let a gay couple stay in a double bedroom at their bed and breakfast guest house in England have been forced to sell after losing a lengthy court battle.
According to a report in yesterday's Daily Mail, Hazelmary and Peter Bull, who run Chymorvah Hotel at Marazion, Cornwall, have also received death threats over their decision to refuse a room to gay couple Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy in 2008.
Now, the Daily Mail reported, the Bulls say they have no option but to sell their beloved home and business after failing to attract enough customers and paying legal costs after high-profile court cases over the issue.
The Chymorvah, which allows only married couples to share a bed, also lost its listing with hotel database Visit England because of its stance against the 2007 Equalities Act, the Daily Mail story said.
Despite a good summer of sunshine, the guest house was not even half full. The Bulls believe they were the only hotel in the county "that had rooms left".
The couple told the Mail that they have received death threats, their property was vandalised and their website was corrupted with pornography.
The Bulls complained that the bolts were removed from the wheels of their car and most recently they found a dead rabbit nailed to their fence. They are convinced that those acts were in retaliation for their stand on who they allow to stay in their guest house.
In 2011, the Bulls were ordered to pay £3,600 to civil partners Hall and Preddy after they were refused a room at the grade II listed hotel on religious grounds.
The landmark legal case, heard at Bristol County Court, polarised opinions and effectively sealed the supremacy of gay rights over Christian belief under the Sexual Orientation Regulations introduced in 2007.
"The laws prevent discrimination against homosexuals by businesses and state organisations, but have had the knock-on effect of requiring Christians who run small concerns to set their principles and beliefs aside if they wish to stay in business," the Mail reported.
Judge Andrew Rutherford, the Mail reported, also broke new ground by insisting that in the eyes of the law there is no difference between a civil partnership and a marriage and that as such the Bulls' reason for denying civil partners a room was invalid.
Outside court, Mrs Bull said the verdict had serious implications for the religious liberty of Christians and that they felt pushed to the margins of society. She added: "Some people are more equal than others."
The Bulls said they have been forced into putting up for sale their nine-bed hotel for £750,000 because last winter they "were actually shivering and were hungry".
But Mrs Bull fears they will be forced to accept much less for it, because the lack of visitors has left them on the brink of bankruptcy.
"We were optimistic in the spring. Why wouldn't we be, with the summer ahead of us?" she said. "We have had a better summer than we thought but nowhere near good enough to pay our way. We were not even half-full. We must have been the only place in west Cornwall that had rooms left."
Mounting bills and political pressure have left the Bulls feeling their belief system as well as their business has been demolished.
"It was a gradual process; we just noticed more and more that we couldn't make the mortgage repayments," said Mrs Bull. "Last winter was terrible, we were actually shivering and hungry. We are coming towards next winter and dreading it.
"In 2013, two people who worked all their lives at this have ended up cold and hungry. It's not right.
"This is like a death in the family. I never thought it would end like this.
"We are not facing the future with any real enthusiasm," she told the Daily Mail.
The Bulls have operated their 'married only' policy since they bought the Chymorvah Private Hotel in 1986.
Their hotel website says: 'We have few rules but please note that out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only.'
The rule is so strictly adhered to that Mrs Bull has admitted that her brother, when he comes to stay, is required to stay in a separate room to his female partner.
According to the Mail, in August 2008 the Bulls received a letter from Stonewall, a gay rights organisation, saying it had received a complaint and warning the hotel it was breaking the law.
The following month, Preddy, from Bristol, rang to book a double room for two nights, but did not mention he was part of a homosexual couple.
Mrs Bull, who took the call, said that she had wrongly assumed he would be staying with his wife before she accepted the booking.
When Preddy and Hall arrived, they were told by the manager, Bernie Quinn, that the hotel could not honour the booking and could offer them only separate single rooms.
The chronology of events led to the Bulls fearing that they had become the victims of a sting operation by gay rights activists. However, in court a judge said there was no evidence to prove this.
Earlier this year, the couple won the right to take their appeal to the Supreme Court next month after the case was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
But some critics have pointed to a problem with the service itself as the reason behind the collapse of the Chymorvah, rather than the religious views of the owners.
The guest house has been savaged by reviewers on cult travel website TripAdvisor for being "shabby", "not particularly clean" or welcoming.
One user wrote: "Looks good on the website, but extremely disappointing. I am Christian, but that's not the reason I went there. But I felt the place had a terrible atmosphere.
"I am vegetarian and there was a very limited menu. I felt like I committed a crime when I mentioned I was vegetarian. The look I received from the woman could kill you."
Another reviewer wrote: "Had a most disappointing three-day stay here and could not wait to get out; everywhere is so old and dated and really shabby.
"It throws religion in your face, which you don't need when stopping at a hotel.
"The breakfast is of very poor quality, which just about sums up the rest of the hotel. Poor!"