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Hawaii Bed and Breakfast Refused Room to Lesbians?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on December 21, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A lawsuit filed by two Southern California women accuses Hawaii's Aloha Bed & Breakfast of engaging in sexual orientation discrimination in 2007.

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford called the establishment and requested a room with a single bed. Owner Phyllis Young then asked if they were lesbians, to which they answered yes.

Allegedly, Young then declined to rent them a room, citing her religious views and discomfort at having lesbians in her house.

Hawaii prohibits sexual orientation discrimination by businesses open to the general public. Aloha Bed & Breakfast arguably must comply with this rule even though it doubles as Phyllis Young's home. Ultimately, she's inviting the general public to pay for the privilege of staying at her house.

Her religious objections are also unlikely to excuse her alleged behavior. Religious institutions and organizations are usually the only entities entitled to such a defense under the law. Courts rarely, if ever, allow individual defendants to bypass discrimination laws on religious grounds.

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission seems to have come to a similar conclusion. Individuals must obtain a "right to sue" letter from the Commission before they can sue a business for discrimination.

The Commission investigated the 2007 claim and interviewed Phyllis Young, according to the Washington Post. She called lesbians "deplorable" and made other negative remarks. Investigators subsequently concluded that it was reasonable to believe she discriminated against Diane Carvelli and Taeko Bufford.

In case you're wondering, that's why it took four years to bring Aloha Bed & Breakfast to court.

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