Long Beach lesbian couple wins another court victory in Hawaii discrimination case

Lesbian Couple Hawaii Bed Breakfast

Taeko Bufford, right, and Diane Cervelli, a Long Beach lesbian couple, won another legal victory Monday when the Hawai`i Supreme Court refused to review an appeals court ruling against a bed and breakfast owner who violated the state’s anti-discrimination law. Photo: Taeko Bufford and Diane Cervelli.

A Long Beach lesbian couple won another legal victory Monday when the Hawai`i Supreme Court refused to review an appeals court ruling against a bed and breakfast owner who violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.

Phyllis Young, proprietor of The Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Honolulu’s Hawaii Kai area, refused to let the couple have a room on the basis of their sexual orientation. Young had said same-sex relationships “defile our land” and claimed a religious justification for discriminating against the lesbian couple.

In February, the Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling.

“In letting the existing decision stand, Hawai‘i today joined a long line of states across the country that understand how pernicious and damaging a religious license to discriminate would be,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn said in a statement.

“That is the just and proper understanding of the U.S. Constitution,” Renn said. “Religious freedom is protected, but it cannot to be used as a justification for discrimination. If you operate a business, you are open to all.”

Long Beach couple Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford filed a lawsuit in 2011 against the Honolulu-based bed and breakfast for refusing to rent them a room with a single bed because they are a lesbian couple.

In a 2013 ruling, a Hawaii First Circuit Court judge ruled that 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.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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