Winckworth Sherwood

UK 200 2014 position: 81

Categories:Human Rights,UK

Discrimination claim upheld for unmarried gay couple

The Court of Appeal has somewhat reluctantly held in Black & Anor v Wilkinson [2013] EWCA Civ 820 that refusing to allow an unmarried gay couple to stay in a double room at a bed and breakfast is direct discrimination. The Court (the Master of the Rolls presiding) made it clear that if free to do so, it would have found that such discrimination was actually indirect.

Ms Wilkinson, the B&B owner, was a committed Christian who believed the bible was the word of God. She shaped her business around a very personal relationship between herself and her guests. Such hospitality was not extended to unmarried couples, however, and when unmarried gay couple, Mr Black and Mr Morgan, arrived in March 2010 having booked a double room, they were turned away on the basis that she ‘sought to restrict the sharing of the double rooms to heterosexual, preferably married couples’.

One of the questions before the Court was whether this was a case of direct or indirect discrimination. The original judgment had held that it was direct discrimination, following the Court of Appeal decision in Preddy v Bull [2012] EWCA Civ 83. In that case, discriminating against unmarried couples was considered to be direct discrimination against gay people because gay people could never be married…

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