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Angry cleric claims Belfast hotel ignored letters over axed marriage event

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The Balmoral Hotel

The Balmoral Hotel

Freddie Parkinson

The Balmoral Hotel

A minister taking legal action against a Belfast hotel over claims he was asked to halt a public meeting in support of traditional marriage has spoken of his anger.

The Reverend Harry Coulter, from Carrickfergus Reformed Presbyterian Church, is suing the owners of the Balmoral Hotel, on the outskirts of west Belfast, for unlawful discrimination and breach of contract over the alleged incident. He said court papers have been lodged to initiate legal proceedings.

Rev Coulter hired the hotel's grand ballroom for his 'Marriage Matters' event in October last year.

However, the Christian Institute, a lobby group and charity, which is supporting the minister, said that midway through the two-hour meeting, attended by more than 50 members of the public, hotel staff interrupted the event and asked the clergyman to end the meeting.

The Institute claims that despite Rev Coulter writing to the hotel on two occasions, as well as sending a legal letter, the hotel has failed to respond.

The Co Antrim man claimed his meeting had been interrupted because of traditional views of marriage.

He said: "At the time of making the booking, it was communicated that the room was to host an event in relation to the proposed change to the definition of marriage in Northern Ireland under the banner Marriage Matters. The hotel recognised this by its sign 'Marriage Matters' located in the entrance area of the hotel.

"Staff were closely involved with us in the set-up for the meeting.

"They observed us putting out publicity materials which included the location of a free-standing pull-up at the top of the corridor leading to The Grand Ballroom."

Rev Coulter claimed that no staff members expressed any concern in relation to the content of the publicity materials or the display until the meeting was interrupted.

He is also claiming the hotel breached its contract after the event ended before the room booking expired.

Rev Coulter said it was important to take legal action to ensure people are able to express their views.

Simon Calvert, from the Christian Institute, said that it was right to support Rev Coulter in his legal action "to defend his freedom to hold and express these beliefs".

The Balmoral Hotel yesterday failed to respond to a request for comment.

In a previous statement it said it was closed due to the coronavirus crisis and as such was "unable to comment".

Belfast Telegraph