Wednesday 19 January 2011

England: How a view of sex got compensation paid

A room with a view
An apparently landmark judgement on matters of equality takes the focus away from some fundamental matters of law and justice that made the case historic.
A gay male couple had booked a room at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Cornwall in England and when booking the room they made enquiries about whether they could bring their dog.
As it transpired, dogs were not allowed and I believe the men made arrangements for their dog to be cared for whilst they went for their break in Cornwall.
A hotel with bad views
When they arrived at the hotel, the proprietors of the establishment on realising they were a couple refused them accommodation and the men were left with no alternative arrangement for their break in Cornwall.
It was a clear case of prejudice and discrimination based on the religious beliefs of the proprietors and no one should begrudge them their faith and how they decide to project that. In fact, they would also not offer any accommodation to unmarried couples and that again is their prerogative.
In the first instance, the proprietors could probably have saved themselves the confrontation of doorstep intolerance by clearly publishing their beliefs as part of their commercials or advertisements and when bookings were being made on the phone they could have gone down a list of intrusive busy-body questions pertaining to relationships, sexuality, sexual preferences, religious allegiances, political influences and whatever else defines the narrow-minded view of the world they might have, they didn’t.
Expressing outmoded views
It is still unfortunate that people conflate sexuality with sex and feel that unmarried couples regardless of their kind of commitment are adulterers or fornicators; homosexuals get a worse rap from the unspeakable thoughts of what people might think they get up to, to rabid sexual addicts ready to bonk anything that breathes – the reality is quite different.
These guests would have had their rooms and whatever they get up to behind their closed doors should really have been no business of the hotel proprietors apart from where the guests are wrecking the rooms.
Courting an alternative view
In any event the gay couple who are by law also civil partners decided to make a case of this matter and they took the hotel to court claiming they were discriminated against supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
At which point, bleeding hearts have come out in support of the Christian proprietors who now had to find the legal grounds that allowed them discriminate against this gay couple.
The first defence they offered was that they were concerned about sex and not sexual orientation, throwing in the matter of this also applying to unmarried heterosexual couples – why it is their business whether their guests have sex or not escapes me.
Homosexuals might come to stay and not as much as kiss each other whilst heterosexuals might visit in the middle of the deepest rift between the partners that they would hardly look at each other – it stretches the imagination as to whether the hotel offers a sex haven to get the hormones in overdrive that they would only want “traditional” couples to enjoy. Absurd.
A view in the wallet
Judge Andrew Rutherford of the Bristol County Court found in favour of the claimants and awarded compensation to them at GBP 1,800 each.
However it is the points of law that he stated that makes the judgement of more significance and beyond the narrow constrains of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
At first, “the hotel had directly discriminated against the couple on the grounds of their sexual orientation,” indicating that direct and overt discrimination where provisions of extant law provides for the promotion of equality can lead to sanctions if the offended seek redress.
The judge said the right of the defendants to manifest their religion is not absolute and “can be limited to protect the rights and freedoms of the claimants,” this is important; because it means the freedom of religious thought and practice is confined to the practitioners as long as they do not interact with others and use their freedoms to abridge the rights of others.
Protecting the view of the weak
This can very well become a vehicle for the protection of the rights of a child, ward or person who naturally would have certain rights but find that they have been infringed by the influence of others who presume to manifest their religious views in absolute indifference, that which the law provides to protect the person or that which those whose expert opinion should override the religious influence of those who exercise such power.
He described the sexual orientation regulations as a “necessary and proportionate intervention by the state to protect the rights of others,” we can only be happy that such safeguards exist where egregious intolerant, bigoted and discriminatory action can be assessed and adjudged by the state.
It calls for people who have found themselves on the wrong side of this kind of behaviour to seek the protection of the state that can and will intervene allowing for redress.
How their choices adjusted the view
When Mr and Mrs Bull chose to open their home as a hotel, their private home became a commercial enterprise. This decision means that community standards, not private ones, must be upheld.
This is the clincher that derives from the judgement of the County Court, Mr and Mrs Bull had a home, it was a private home, they had the choice to keep their home private and they had strong Christian beliefs which they must have known would have conflicted with many other belief systems and brought uncomfortable confrontations as they stood their ground where those said beliefs were challenged by the lifestyles and views of others.
They should have been rational in appreciating that certain circumstances might arise where common-sense should prevail of narrow-minded religious sentiment manifesting as unreasonable and un-persuadable.
John Bull’s views are off
This cocoon of choice to keep their home private was cracked open when this private home became a hotel and by that it had become a commercial enterprise where private standards had to give way to community standards that are protected by law.
Such community standards which define a person as a member of society can be guided by private belief systems but they cannot override the roles of civil interaction that arise when a formerly private place becomes a public and community space.
In other words a hotel is a commercial place governed by community standards, they had taken the choice to give up their home and the privacy it confers with the private standards that derive from their religious beliefs.
Mr and Mrs Bull had better not have a son named John because Great Britain is changing and they had better catch up with the times, part of which is paying for the lessons that bring them that full knowledge of the changed times – the GBP 3,600 they have to pay.

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