Hawaii Judge Rules Against Discriminating Bed & Breakfast

Taeko Bufford and Diane Cervelli (Photo Credit: Eric Risberg/AP)

A judge in Hawaii’s first circuit has ruled that the Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Hawai’i Kai was violating state law when it discriminated against a same-sex couple and imposed an injunction preventing it from ever doing so again. Lambda Legal represented the couple, Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford, but the Hawai’i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) also joined in the suit.

The couple had been visiting a close friend and her newborn baby, and they contacted the Aloha B&B because it was near where she lived. When they asked for a single bed, owner Phyllis Young asked if they were a lesbian couple, and when they confirmed they were, the owner said she was uncomfortable having lesbians in her house because of her religious views. During an HCRC investigation, Young admitted that she turned the couple away because she believes that same-sex relationships are “detestable” and that they “defile the land.”

Hawaii first passed LGBT nondiscrimination protections in public accommodations in 2006, and Cervelli and Bufford experienced their discrimination in 2007. The law stipulates that it is illegal to refuse services based on sexual orientation. Notably, Hawaii does not have same-sex marriage, so though conservatives have already started to claim that this lawsuit victory “tramples religious liberty,” they cannot claim that this case has anything to with the advance of marriage equality. Instead, it’s a clear example of how religious beliefs simply do not justify blatant discrimination.