Belfast Telegraph

Ashers verdict common sense verdict, says hotelier who wouldn't let gay couple share room

Ashers Bakery owners Amy and Daniel McArthur leaving the Supreme Court in London yesterday
Ashers Bakery owners Amy and Daniel McArthur leaving the Supreme Court in London yesterday
Hazelmary Bull and her late husband Peter
Victoria Leonard

By Victoria Leonard

A Christian hotel owner in England who refused to let a gay couple stay in a double room has welcomed the Supreme Court judgment on the Ashers case as "a victory for common sense".

Hazelmary Bull and her late husband Peter made headlines in 2008 after refusing to let civil partners Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall share a double room at The Chymorvah House Hotel in Marazion in Cornwall.

In 2011, Bristol County Court found that they had acted unlawfully, and the Bulls were ordered to pay a total of £3,600 damages to Mr Preddy and Mr Hall.

The Bulls' appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2012, and in 2013 the couple lost their Supreme Court challenge.

Hazelmary, who has renamed the property The Chymorvah House Christian Hotel, said she had a breakdown over the case and the business lost "around three-quarters" of its trade.

Following their experience, she revealed how she and her late husband had lent support to the McArthurs, including hosting them in their hotel.

"I was watching the case live, and when I heard the verdict I felt relieved that common sense had prevailed," Hazelmary said.

"I have been texting the McArthur family - they are shattered, tired, and they are so family-orientated that they want to get back to real life. I imagine they are very relieved, we all feel it's a victory for common sense.

"Cases like this put an awful stress on family life. I think that the Equality Commission should learn from this and take a more critical, clinical view.

"This is taxpayers' money that they are spending, and they need to make sure common sense is applied in what comes to court.

Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company. Click through the gallery to read the full judgement. [File photo]
Daniel and Amy McArthur of Ashers Baking Company. Click through the gallery to read the full judgement. [File photo]

"It will be interesting to see if this will dampen down the zeal with which these cases are taken.

"This was always about the message on the cake, not the sexual orientation of the person ordering the cake. You wouldn't go into a Muslim bakery and ask them to print a cartoon of Mohammed. I think Christians are considered an easy target due to 'turn the other cheek' - but Christians are not asked by God to be doormats."

Hazelmary still insists the hotel wasn't "discriminating against homosexuals" when they refused Mr Preddy and Mr Hall.

"For 30 years we turned away unmarried heterosexuals - we are born again believers and felt we were following God's directions," she said. "It has nothing to do with the fact they were living together - it's the fact that Peter and I preferred them not to sleep in a double bed under our roof. When the story broke our website was corrupted with the most awful porn, they loosened the wheel nuts on my husband's car and he unknowingly drove for 30 miles before it was discovered.

"We had death threats, vandalism - they nailed a rabbit to a gate post which forensics said had been alive at the time.

"We were asked to leave Visit England, which meant we couldn't advertise in the best places.

"I had a breakdown that happened overnight. I went to bed and when I woke up I couldn't walk or talk. I got over the breakdown, but Peter didn't take it very well - he watched our business, which we had built up over 30 years with a lot of personal sacrifice, seep away.

"I think it contributed to his failing health. He suffered emotionally and psychologically, but not spiritually. He passed away in 2016. Our business was left on its knees and we lost around three-quarters of our trade.

"The trial cost so much we couldn't spend money on the place, and a Christian lady came forward and contributed very generously to the renovations. Without her, we wouldn't be here at all."

However, Hazelmary believes that Ashers Bakery will not be negatively affected by the court case. "The feeling for Ashers in Northern Ireland is high," she continued. That solidarity is one of the reasons why the McArthurs will be OK."

Hazelmary stated that she will now "have to consider" how to accommodate married same-sex couples when the hotel reopens next year. "It's a minefield," she admitted. "That's why we stipulate on our website that it's heterosexual marriage - we believe in old-fashioned marriage as laid down in scripture, and that won't change."

Belfast Telegraph


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