A Long Beach lesbian couple won a legal victory last week when a Hawaii appeals court upheld a ruling against a bed and breakfast owner who violated the law and discriminated against the women.
Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford filed a lawsuit in 2011 against the Honolulu-based Aloha Bed & Breakfast for refusing to rent them a room with a single bed because they are lesbian.
In a 2013 ruling, a Hawaii First Circuit Court judge ruled that bed and breakfast owner Phyllis Young violated the state public accommodations law and ordered the business to stop discriminating against same-sex couples. The public accommodations law prohibits establishments that provide lodging to transient guests from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, race, color, ancestry, religion, disability and sex —including gender identity or expression.
‘NO EXCUSE FOR DISCRIMINATION’
In a statement, Peter Renn, a senior attorney with Lambda Legal who represented the women, said, “The court affirmed that there is no excuse for discrimination. Hawai`i law is crystal clear: if you operate a business, you are open to all.”
Before filing their lawsuit, the couple contacted the Hawai`i Civil Rights Commission, and in the course of their investigation, the owner admitted to the commission that she turned the couple away because they were lesbians, stating that she believed same-sex relationships are “detestable” and that they “defile our land.”
‘YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THE LAW’
“I can’t tell you how much it hurt to be essentially told, ‘we don’t do business with your kind.’ It still stings to this day,” Bufford said in a statement. “We thought the days when business owners would say ‘We’re open to the public – but not to you’ was a thing of the past.
“You don’t have to change your beliefs,” she said, “but you do have to follow the law just as everyone else does.”