Religion Vs The Law: Bull & Bull v Hall & Preddy

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Religion it has been argued, has been responsible for forming the backbone of laws around the world. The rapid growth of secularism borne out of the “age of enlightenment”‘ has helped evolve the law to its modern manifestation that we see today.

Some mostly, but not exclusively, of a religious disposition argue that the law steps onto the “dangerous”’ moral ground around issues such as same sex marriage. The aforementioned issue has come into the sharp focus of the media in recent months and has been discussed with passionate vigor from both sides.

The battle is being initiated on all fronts. The most fervent skirmishes being fought in the political arena with big names investing large amounts of political capital in the debate which and fighting a proxy war through propaganda.

The legal war is equally bloody. A case on this issue which is currently moving through the British Courts is the case Bull [2012] EWCA Civ 83. I have briefly summarised the facts below:

Mr and Mrs Bull are a Christian couple and ran a guest house in Cornwall. The guesthouse had been run in accordance with their interpretation of Christianity which holds that homosexuality is a “sin”. They did not therefore allow a same sex civil couple, Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall to share a double bed. Married heterosexual couples were however hosted in double bedrooms.

Mr Preddy and Mr Hall then sued Mr and Mrs Bull claiming unlawful discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. The Bulls claimed the defence of religious belief and denied either direct or indirect discrimination.

A learned judge in Bristol County Court did not agree and found the Bulls guilty of discrimination.’

The Bulls appealed to the Court of Appeal. In rejecting the appeal Lady Justice Rafferty stated that a homosexual couple “cannot comply with the restriction because each party is of the same sex and therefore cannot marry”. She continued saying “the criterion at the heart of the restriction, that the couple should be married, is necessarily linked to the characteristic of a heterosexual orientation.”‘

The Bulls were recently given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court although no date has been set.

This case will no doubt be followed closely by not just legal academics, politicians and the media but the general public as the outcome could have far reaching implications. The judgment will also be an interesting take on the mood of the country on a subject which has seen unprecedented gains for gay rights.

Watch this space! To read the full Court of Appeal judgment on this interesting area of law, please click here.

Hanne & Co’s family department is a leader in its field, amongst our many other areas of legal practice, we are able to advise civil partners and couples across London on their rights and we follow this evolving area of the law with a passion. In the event that you are seeking advice on a family matter, please contact our family department by emailing info@hanne.co.uk .

By Trainee Solicitor Mike Herford.
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‘http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment
‘http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/11/legalising-gay-marriage-unjustified-archbishops
‘http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/hall-preddy-bull-judgment.pdf
‘http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/bull-v-hall-and-preddy.pdf