The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of a bed & breakfast owner in Hawaii who refused to host a same-sex couple due to her religious objections over homosexuality.
The initial lawsuit, Aloha Bed & Breakfast v. Dianne Cervelli, stems back to an incident in 2007 when Cervelli contacted the B&B owner, Phyllis Young, about accommodations.
Cervelli indicated there would be two guests as she would be traveling with her same-sex partner, Taeko Bufford.
According to the complaint, Young asked “Are you both lesbians?” Young then refused to board the couple saying she was uncomfortable having lesbians in her home.
The couple filed complaints with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission which found Young had illegally discriminated against the couple. Hawaii’s public accommodation law clearly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Associated Press reported that Young told the commission she is Catholic and feels that homosexuality is wrong. She felt her decision to deny accommodations to the couple was protected by her right to free exercise of her religious beliefs under the First Amendment.
Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of the couple in 2011. The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission joined the legal action as co-plaintiffs.
In April of 2013, the Hawaii First Circuit Court ruled in favor of Cervelli.
Young appealed the ruling, and in February 2018, the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision.
The B&B owner tried to take her case to the Hawaii state Supreme Court, but the high court refused to hear the appeal last year.
In October, Young filed a petition to have her appeal heard at the U.S. Supreme Court.
As SCOTUS declined to take up the case, Young has exhausted her legal options and the ruling by the lower court will stand.
Peter Renn, counsel for Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office, celebrated the news.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to let the lower court ruling stand reaffirms that the freedom of religion does not give businesses a right to violate nondiscrimination laws that protect all individuals from harm, whether on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation,” said Renn in a statement to the Washington Blade. “The Supreme Court declined to consider carving out an exception from this basic principle when a business discriminates based on the sexual orientation of its customers.”
“LGBT people deserve an equal right to go about their everyday life without the fear that discrimination waits for them around the corner,” he added.