Lesbian couple sues Hawaii B&B which turned them away for being gay

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A gay couple from the US are suing a hotel for discrimination, saying the owner denied them a room because of their sexuality.

Diane Cervelli, 42, and Taeko Bufford, 28, claim they were turned away from the Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2007.

B&B owner Phyllis Young told the couple she was uncomfortable having a gay people in her house, but added that she also did not allow unmarried straight couples to share rooms.

It is illegal in Hawaii to deny public accommodation to anyone on the basis of their sexual orientation, along with their race, gender identity, religion or disability.

Cervelli said they had been able to find alternative accommodation but added: “In my past experiences in Hawaii, people have been so friendly.

“It was just hurtful. It made me feel we weren’t good enough.”

The case bears several similarities to the ongoing dispute in the UK regarding two Christian private hotel owners who refused a gay couple a room because they were unmarried.

In January, Martin Hall and Steven Preddy, who are in a civil partnership, sued Christians Peter and Hazelmary Bull for sexual orientation discrimination.

Bristol Crown Court ruled that the Bulls had directly discriminated against the gay couple on the ground of their sexual orientation, and Mr Hall and Mr Preddy were awarded compensation of £1,800 each.

The Bulls’ appeal reached London in November, where their lawyer argued they were “entitled to outdated beliefs”, which he claimed did not directly discriminate against gay people.

Young is being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, the group which this summer was granted permission to intervene in two cases at the European Court of Human Rights where religious beliefs clashed with non-discrimination laws.

The ADF says its goal is “through strategy, training, funding, and litigation, to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family”.

B&B owner Young reportedly told the Hawaii Human Rights Commission that being gay was “detestable” and “defiles our land”.

The couple are seeking clarification of the legal obligations of hotel owners in Hawaii to gay couples, for the hotel to be forced to comply with the rules in future, and a sum of money in compensation.

Their lawyer added: “No amount of money is going to erase the humiliation and pain.”