Gay couple takes Christian B and B owners to court for discrimination Aims of this lesson: To understand different viewpoints on the issue of homosexuality in todays society. To apply our key ethical theories to the facts of one particular case. To think critically about arguments presented by each side.
Chymorvah Bed and Breakfast Peter and Hazelmary Bull have run their B &B in Cornwall for 25 years. The website says its a family-run business run for families, and we have few rules but please note out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only. Steven Preddy and Andrew Hall attempt to book a room and are turned away.
Now view the Christian defence The Christian defence is given by a spokesman on Sky News. The interview is available on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mgnYhn4 Srs Issue 1: Is there one Christian view? Traditionalist view quotes Leviticus 20 v 13 or
Romans 1 v 32, which says that if a man lies (has sex) with a man he deserves death. Liberal view points to Jesus putting love above the law, by touching the unclean leper (Mark 2 v 41), calling the unclean woman daughter (Mark 5 v 34), and pardoning the adulteress (John 8). The official Roman Catholic view follows natural law theory in arguing that homosexual sex breaks the primary precept linking sex to reproduction and so is intrinisically disordered (Humanae Vitae). Issue 3: Gay orientation or gay sex?
We always need to distinguish between gay orientation and gay sexual practice because no Christian would condemn you on the grounds of orientation. Are the Christian couple making an assumption that gay sex will occur on their premises? Suppose two straight men ask to share a room, would they be denied because they might be gay? In which case are you discriminating against them, or against an idea of gayness?
Issue 2: Is law the same as morality? On one level discrimination appears to break the law, but the Equality Act 2007 needs to be interpreted. It depends what is meant by discrimination. Are the Christian couple discriminating against gay people, or against promiscuity (ie sex outside of marriage)? Does it make any difference that the gay couple are in a legal civil partnership equivalent (arguably) to marriage?
Would you feel equally damaged if as a heterosexual non-married couple you had been turned away? Issue 4: Conscience opt-outs A doctor can opt out of abortions on the grounds of an Islamic or Christian or other conscience. Is this case the same? Is one difference that the gay couple can argue they are harmed by this action? Shouldnt rights be always conditional upon no-one being harmed by their exercise? For example, we have the
right to free speech but not to say racist or sexist things. Suppose the Christian couple offered them a room in a friends B & B next door. Would this be morally acceptable? The verdict: 1,600 compensation to be paid to the gay couple Judge Rutherford argued that laws had changed to reflect societys attitudes (is he therefore a relativist?). It was inevitable that modern and traditional views
will come into conflict. He agreed that both sides could claim the Human Rights Act was on their side the right to protection against discrimination (Article 14) v the right to practise your own beliefs (Article 9). See link below. He ruled that it makes a difference that this is a licensed hotel, not a private house. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/946400.stm Article 9: Human Rights Act 2000 Article 9: Freedom of conscience (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of thought,
conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. (2) Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Evaluating perspectives
Kantian perspective (universalisability and treat people as ends). Natural Law perspective (primary precepts and their application in secondary precepts). Utilitarian perspectives (Bentham and Mill). Virtue Ethical perspectives Situational and Divine Command perspectives (which, with natural law, gives us a variety of Christian views). Which is most useful and why? Write down
Something youve learnt. A point from one of your ethical theories which has helped cast light on this issue. A question you still have. Finally: Here is another thought-provoking clip where Stephen Fry challenges the Roman Catholic natural law position. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEhtOhwL8 xk
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