Hawaii B&B loses court battle after turning away lesbian couple

A B&B in Hawaii has lost a court appeal after refusing to host a lesbian couple.

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford were turned away from the Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Honolulu, Hawaii.

B&B owner Phyllis Young told the couple she was uncomfortable having gay people in her house, subsequently saying she thinks homosexual relationships are “detestable” and “defiled the land.”

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.

On Friday, Hawaii’s Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in the couple’s favour – finding that the B&B owner had been discriminatory by refusing them a room based on sexual orientation.

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford

According to Hawaii News Now, the court rejected the argument that Young was entitled to discriminate against the same-sex couple on the grounds of religious freedom.

The court found that the business broke Hawaii’s public accommodation law, which “requires equal access to facilities and services regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation”

Jennifer Pizer of pro-LGBT law firm Lambda Legal told the outlet: “This has never been a case about the money.

“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.”

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

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford

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

“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.”

Ms Cervelli previously spoke about the experience.

She said: “[The owner] asked me point-blank, ‘are you a lesbian?’

“I answered truthfully, and the next thing out of her mouth was ‘you can’t stay here’.”

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford

Ms Bufford added :”I was in disbelief, because this has never happened to me before, even as an African-American. So now I’m facing discrimination just by being with someone I love.

“Some people continue to use their religious beliefs to discriminate and find ways around it. It’s really important that we are protected and we have our rights.”

Ms Cervelli added: “In my past experiences in Hawaii, people have been so friendly. It was just hurtful [to be turned away]. It made me feel we weren’t good enough.”

Young was supported by  Alliance Defending Freedom, an evangelical anti-LGBT group that has sought to undermine civil rights protections for LGBT people across the United States.

Dale Schowengerdt, ADF legal counsel, said: “This lawsuit threatens fundamental freedoms.

“At the end of the day, no business owner should be forced to violate his or her religious beliefs because someone is offended by those beliefs.”

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”.

It has previously funded lawsuits to undermine civil rights laws – backing plaintiffs seeking to exclude hypothetical gay customers from their businesses.