A gay couple suing the Christian owners of a seaside hotel may have booked a double room as a “set-up”, a court heard today.

Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy, from Bristol, have lodged a claim for up to £5,000 in damages from Peter and Hazelmary Bull, alleging sexual orientation discrimination.

But the Bulls deny the claim under new equality laws, saying they have a long-standing policy of banning all unmarried couples – both heterosexual and gay – from sharing a bed at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance, Cornwall.

Mr Bull, 70, and his wife, 66, say their policy – operated since they bought the hotel in 1986 – is based on their beliefs about marriage and not a hostility to sexual orientation.

Today, at Bristol County Court Bernie Quinn, who works at the hotel, hinted that Mr Preddy and Mr Hall’s booking was a set-up.

Mr Quinn explained that gay rights organisation Stonewall had written to Mr and Mrs Bull a month earlier advising them of new equality legislation.

He told the court that hours before Mr Preddy had made a telephone booking in September 2008 he spoke to a “Mrs Preddy” regarding a double room.

The claimants’ barrister, Catherine Casserley, asked Mr Quinn: “Are you suggesting this claim was a set-up?”

Mr Quinn agreed and added: “It is not beyond the realms of possibility. I have no proof other than the phone call.

“I cannot assume for them what their motivations were or weren’t. I assumed, going back to the phone call, that we were expecting a Mr and Mrs Preddy and what arrived was two gentlemen.”

Explaining her and her husband’s faith, Mrs Bull told the court: “We accept that the Bible is the holy living word of God and we endeavour to follow that.”

Mrs Bull said the hotel’s policy was not to allow unmarried couples – of either sex – to share a double room or a twin room and that had been in place since 1986.

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