UK Judge: Religion Not Acceptable Excuse for Discrimination

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Let’s say you and your attractive same-sex partner (because why wouldn’t your partner be attractive) are touring around Great Britain. You find this quaint Bed & Breakfast to stay at, and you’re told that you are not allowed to rent a room their, because your relationship (and the fact you would share a bed) is an “affront” to the faith of the owners. What do you do?

Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy sued. And now they have won, and Peter and Hazelmary Bull had to pay them each £1,800 pounds.

This is an important victory, because we have similar issues at home, and I’m sure right-wing groups are seething over this decision.

But at the root of this “issue” is the question of whether a person’s religious beliefs are valid reasons to practice discrimination.

Some people will put forth ideas about privacy, that if you own your own business, you can decide who has access to it. This is true. I argued this point last year with my complaint that the Marriott hotel gave NARTH safe haven to spread their dangerous ideas. While it frustrates me that Marriott doesn’t exercise its right to not welcome groups like NARTH, I at least appreciate the equal opportunity aspect of it.

But there’s a difference between individuals who are members of NARTH and NARTH itself. If Marriott didn’t let members of NARTH stay in its rooms, that would bother me. It’s hosting the conference that I had a problem with, because the conference is a platform for a viewpoint contrary to the support for LGBT issues that Marriott has prided itself on publicly.

So as for the Bulls, I have no sympathy for them. They were openly discriminating.

If a bar didn’t serve a drink to a woman, or a restaurant didn’t let a black couple eat there, or Jewish people were refused service at a department store, we wouldn’t flinch at calling that discrimination. But not allowing a bed for a gay couple? That’s still up for grabs for a significant portion of society.

And that’s galling. It wouldn’t be true if so many of the false memes about LGB people (particularly that sexual orientation is a choice and can be changed) were not so persistent. None of the beliefs about gays, lesbians, and bisexuals reflect the reality of our existence, and yet we still live in a society guided by those constructs. We will not achieve equality until they are deconstructed.

So this discussion is coming. It’s only going to escalate more and more. At the end of the day, we’ll be arguing what gets priority: freedom from discrimination or privilege of religious belief.

I’d suggest you start figuring out where you stand.

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There are 9 Comments to "UK Judge: Religion Not Acceptable Excuse for Discrimination"

  • Buffy says:

    It’s high time people are put in their place with this nonsense. They can hold whatever chosen religious beliefs they want. They can believe the Earth is flat, the universe is only 6,000 years old, that women were put here to be broodsows and manservants, that gay people are abominations, that it’s an affront to god to use electricity or whatever. But they still must be subject to the same laws everyone else is or the entire system will fall apart. No more “get out of jail free because I choose to believe ABC/XYZ” cards.

    • Mark Holsing says:

      But that’s just it isn’t it? It’s not breaking the law. They aren’t burning down their gay neighbors house or beating up an interracial couple. While I disagree with their idea that just because a couple is gay they shouldn’t be allowed a place in their bed and breakfast (last I checked money from gay people still kept the lights on and food on the table), I support their right to think what they want and to deny service to whomever they choose. It’s not like there aren’t other places that wouldn’t gladly accept a gay couple or the gay couple was starving and half dead with exhaustion, they could have found another place to stay. Could they tell the world their story in hopes that people would avoid the discriminating hotel? Absolutely! And that would be their right as well (almost their duty). But you can’t say in this situation that that was happening. Unless the UK has laws that prohibit discrimination, it was not breaking the law. I would say the same if an Atheist company refused service to a Christian couple because the Christian couple were planning to evangelize in their town. It’s peoples right to be as close-minded and economically moronic as they want.

  • Mark Holsing says:

    No I would not be okay with that as I am not okay with discrimination but I still support their right to be bigots as long as they do so in a law abiding way. Just because I think they’re an idiot and would not support such an establishment with my money doesn’t mean that they aren’t entitled to their opinion and exercising their opinion in a lawful manner. If there were an anti-discriminatory law against them discriminating in that way then I would fully expect the establishment to correct their practices to abide by the law.

    • ZackFord says:

      It sounds like you have no hesitation when it comes to calling it “discrimination” when it comes to race, but you don’t seem to respond with the same immediacy with sexual orientation. A judge made this ruling, so it must have been based on something. 😉

      • Mark Holsing says:

        That’s not fair i referred to the hotel that wouldn’t rent out a room to a gay couple as the “discriminating hotel”. And yes in the UK, there is apparently a preexisting law or court ruling that allows the judge to find in favor of the gay couple. But the question is are there laws in the United States or has there been court precedent that would allow for a similar ruling here. It does seem that you are trying to play two sides of the coin though. You want ignorant hate groups like NARTH to be discriminated against but when a group you identify with is discriminated against, suddenly it’s appalling. You address this slightly by saying that you would be angered if the individual members of NARTH were unable to get a room due to their anti-gay views, but let’s say a conference center would not allow an LGTBQ group to gather there? I feel like you would argue avidly for a hotel to discriminate against NARTH but not to discriminate against LGTBQ groups. Do you see how that’s sort of contradictory? Who decides what is an acceptable reason to discriminate and what is an unacceptable reason to discriminate? As long as they aren’t breaking any laws, even if I disagree with their ideas, I would still support their right to have those ideas and to practice them.

        • ZackFord says:

          Well, now we’re talking about two different things. Let’s address the first first.

          In the United States, there is not federal precedent for such protections. It’s not clear to me whether or not you think there should be. When it comes to matters of LGBT equality, I do not trust that what is “right” and what is “law” are the same thing. You are right that a judge in the US might not rule in the same way, but you seem uncommitted as to whether that would be right or wrong. My point is simply that the actions of the couple are 100% discrimination and 100% inexcusable. Please let me know whether or not you agree.

          As for your other point, you again seem to be conflating what is right and wrong with what is legal and illegal. When I was in college I argued that we should talk about “inclusivity” as opposed to just “diversity,” because a campus that wants to be inclusive is proactive, while one that wants to be diverse is reactive. People argued that would mean being inclusive of viewpoints that are exclusive (i.e. a campus inclusive of gays would also have to be inclusive of anti-gay evangelicals). I thought this was a stupid rhetorical argument, because if you’re being inclusive of exclusive ideas, you’re just violating your own principles.

          Marriott, as a company, openly boasts how pro-LGBT it is. It uses that reputation to attract the business of members of the LGBT community. Hosting a conference is willfully aligning your company’s name with the platform of the group hosted. Did you see the RNC Chair debates? It was at a Gaylord hotel with a Gaylord podium, a fact which earned a joke from Jon Stewart last week. It doesn’t matter if the Gaylord is pro-Republican, but they earn that association by hosting the Republicans. It’s just shy of an endorsement.

          NARTH is a dangerous group. Their mission directly conflicts with the nondiscrimination principles Marriott boasts. NARTH shared that Marriott said they would not only welcome NARTH, but ensure they were protected and uninterrupted. I see this as a violation of Marriott’s established principles. They are being “inclusive” of a group that is notably exclusive. So, my concern with Marriott isn’t that I want them to “discriminate” against NARTH, but rather to reject NARTH so as to honor their commitment to NOT discriminate against LGBTQ folks.

          I support NARTH’s right to have those ideas. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they should have the right to practice them. They’re dangerously harmful and completely unscientific (i.e. whacko). A right to ideas is not the same as a right to a platform for them.

  • Mark Holsing says:

    I agree it is 100% discriminatory and 100% wrong in my opinion. But that’s just MY opinion. If I were in that position and a homosexual couple wanted to stay at my establishment I would be more than happy to accept their business.

    My argument is that until such a precedent is set, the persons or group is free to practice their belief within the confines of the law. Whether I believe the law to be good or bad is neither here nor there, until the law is changed they are free to do whatever they like. If there is a law that prohibits businesses from denying service to anyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, ect. then that couple is now in violation of the law and has to change their practices. The judge, with no prior precedent or no law to be upheld, has no right to rule in favor of the couple. In an ideal world everyone would be able to practice their beliefs and no ones beliefs or ideas would infringe on the rights of others, but we don’t. So it is up to the law to decide how much infringement on peoples ideas are permissible in order to “level the playing field” for minority groups.

    As far as the Marriott that makes more sense. You shouldn’t advertise as a pro-gay and then endorse an anti-gay (I would go so far as to say gay-hating) group by allowing them a place to not only stay, but to spout their anti-gay rhetoric. Ideally, businesses would stay neutral. They would offer equal opportunity employment AND business to all people. But, if you advertise as a gay-friendly business, then groups that are in direct violation of that idea should be rejected. But by establishing as “pro-gay” you ARE being discriminatory against anti-gay clients if you refuse to allow people with anti-gay views to frequent your establishment. I believe that, as good business practice would dictate, you would be open to anyone who wanted your good. If you hirer gay employees, and anti-gay groups refuse to use your business then that’s their decision. But you shouldn’t endorse one group over another. If your stance is equal opportunity business, then you need to embrace both LGBTQ people as well as those who are against them.

    NARTH is only dangerous to those who believe their ideas. As long as the participants are willing and capable of making an informed decision, and as long as they aren’t breaking any laws, then YOUR opinion that they are dangerous are just as valid as another gay man who believes that NARTH has the right idea. You and I have very different ideas on many things. I may believe that your beliefs are wrong and infringe on peoples rights and you may feel the same about my ideas. But just because I think you’re wrong doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to believe it and actively pursue that idea with in the confines of the law

    • ZackFord says:

      Not necessarily. We don’t know the UK laws, but in the US, such discrimination could theoretically be found to be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, even if sexual orientation protections are not in place. So, with that in mind, I disagree with your claim that the judge “has no right to rule in favor of the couple.” At least in the US, judges’ job is just as much to protect people from the law or lack of law as it is to arbitrate between them.

      It sounds like you are agreeing with my distinction between hosting a NARTH conference and letting NARTH members rent rooms. I completely agree with you about groups on either side of an issue to boycott a business, and plenty of gay groups have boycotted businesses that support anti-LGBTQ candidates or initiatives. I am not losing any sleep over a business that endorses pro-LGBTQ issues as being not “equal opportunity.”

      NARTH is dangerous to anyone who might hear their ideas. It’s not my opinion that they are dangerous, it’s science’s. It’s not a matter of opinion at all. Ex-gay therapy is psychologically harmful, and NARTH and affiliated ex-gay groups consistently try to interrupt and prevent the equality of LGBT people. Is it against the law for them to say what they say? No. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t oppose their voice and their efforts at every turn.

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