Hawai‘i Court Rules for Lesbian Couple Turned Away by Bed & Breakfast

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April 16, 2013

A Hawai‘i court ruled yesterday that a bed and breakfast violated state law when it turned away a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation.

In 2011, Lambda Legal filed a discrimination lawsuit against Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Hawai‘i Kai on behalf of the couple, Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Peter Renn says:

The Court today rejected a legal attack upon an important civil rights law that protects all people from discriminatory business practices. The Court made clear that no business is above the law. When you enter the commercial world, you take on an obligation not to discriminate against customers, no matter what the color of their skin, what religion they practice, or whom they love. That very simple but fundamental principle was vindicated today.

William Hoshijo, Executive Director of the Hawai‘i Civil Rights Commission, adds: 

The Court’s decision is based on Hawai‘i’s strong state civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination. When visitors or residents are subjected to discrimination, they suffer the sting of indignity, humiliation, and outrage, but we are all demeaned and our society diminished by unlawful discrimination. The Court order reminds us that our state legal protections against discrimination are a priority of the highest order and will be vigorously enforced.

From the Associated Press:

In 2007, Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford tried to book a room at the bed and breakfast because it's in Hawaii Kai, the same east Honolulu neighborhood where the friend they were visiting lived.

When Cervelli specified they would need one bed, the owner asked if they were lesbians. Cervelli responded truthfully and the owner said she was uncomfortable having lesbians in her house because of her religious views, the lawsuit said.

The bed and breakfast violated the state public accommodations law and is ordered to stop discriminating against same-sex couples, according to the ruling dated April 11. 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.

Read the full article here.

Read the press release here.

Learn more about Lambda Legal's Cervelli v. Aloha Bed & Breakfast lawsuit here.