Hawaii appeals court upholds ruling against B&B owner who refused room to a gay couple

Attorneys for California couple Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford are celebrating after Hawaii’s Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld a ruling against a discriminatory bed and breakfast owner. This new ruling came on Friday, 23 February.

The lawsuit

Back in 2011, the couple filed a lawsuit against Aloha Bed & Breakfast for refusing to rent them a room with a single bed based on their sexual orientation.

The couple was represented by LGBTI non-profit, Lambda Legal.

‘Refusing to let the couple book a room was solely based on their sexual orientation because the owner indicated that if they were married, she would not have allowed them to stay there,’ said their attorney, Peter Renn of Lambda Legal’s Los Angeles office.

The lawsuit claimed the business violated Hawaii’s public accommodations law, which prohibits any lodging establishments from discriminating based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.

‘This has never been a case about the money,’ said Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal. ‘It’s really been about a civil rights law that needs to protect everyone, it needs to be real and it needs to be followed. When people come for a vacation or other reasons to visit in Hawaii, everyone should be treated equally.’

Throughout the case, Aloha Bed & Breakfast owner Phyllis Young claimed her religious beliefs prevented her from renting the couple a room.

Upon investigation, Young admitted to refusing a room to the couple because she found homosexual relationships to be ‘detestable’ and that they ‘defiled the land.’

The court rejected Young’s claim. The First Circuit Court ruled in favor of Cervelli and Bufford in April in 2013.

‘When you run a business in your house, it’s a business and you can’t discriminate,’ said Robin Wurtzel, chief counsel for the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.

‘Religious freedom is a very important American value, but it doesn’t mean a right to violate the law,’ Pizer said.

What’s going on now

The bed and breakfast appears to still be up and running, now marketing itself as an ‘Hawaii Kai Christian B&B home.’

‘What I want people to take away from this is a sense of hopefulness that the court does the right thing, that sometimes justice prevails,’ Wurtzel said.

Another judge will be deciding how much Young will have to pay the two women.

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