In 2007, Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford of Long Beach, California, traveled to the Aloha state to visit a friend who had just given birth.
The child apparently was having some health issues at the time, so the couple decided to seek accommodations nearby. The closest option was The Aloha Bed & Breakfast.
But when the couple called Phyllis Young, owner of The Aloha B&B in Honolulu’s Hawaii Kai area, Young told the couple same-sex relationships are "detestable" and “defile our land.”
Hawaii’s public accommodation law specifically bans 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.
Later that year, Cervilli and Bufford filed a complaint with Hawaii’s Civil Rights Commission.
Although Young asserted she had the right to discriminate since her business was in her home, the commission determined Young had openly discriminated against the couple.
Cervilli and Bufford consequently filed a lawsuit against Young in 2011.
In 2013, a Hawaii First Circuit Court judge ruled that Young had violated the state’s public accommodation laws and ordered her to stop discriminating.
Young appealed the decision and in February of this year, the Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling.
In a last ditch effort, the B&B owner asked the state’s Supreme Court to review the case. The high court declined to do so, and effectively affirming the lower court ruling that Young had discriminated.
Earlier this year, Bufford told QVoiceNews, “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.”
“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,” she added. “You don’t have to change your beliefs,” she said, “but you do have to follow the law just as everyone else does.”
Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn hailed the decision saying in a statement:
“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.”
“In fact, since the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop in early June, three state courts – in Arizona, Oregon and now Hawai`i – have either ruled against or refused to review rulings against business owners who have claimed religious justifications to discriminate.”