Judge: Hawaii bed and breakfast discriminated against lesbian couple

Taeko Bufford (left) and Diane Cervelli

Taeko Bufford (left) and Diane Cervelli

HONOLULU — A judge has ruled that a Hawaii bed and breakfast violated the state’s public accommodations law when it denied a room to two women because they’re gay.

Judge Karl K. Sakamoto of the Hawaii First Circuit Court ruled in favor of a Southern California couple who sued Aloha Bed & Breakfast for discrimination in 2011, Lambda Legal announced Monday.

Taeko Bufford (left) and Diane Cervelli

In 2007, Diane Cervelli, 42, and Taeko Bufford, 28, 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.

After Cervelli specified they would need one bed, the owner asked if they were lesbians, to which Cervelli acknowledged truthfully that they were. According to the court documents in the case, the owner, Phyllis Young, then told the couple that she was uncomfortable having lesbians in her house because of her religious views.

Represented by Lambda Legal, the couple sued Young in 2011, alleging she violated Hawaii’s public accommodation law, which prohibits discrimination based on several factors, including sexual orientation.

“You can’t roll up the welcome mat when you see a lesbian or gay couple, just as you can’t refuse to do business with Jewish customers, African-American customers, or disabled customers,” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Peter Renn.

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission joined the lawsuit in order to protect and enforce the state anti-discrimination law.

“The court’s decision is based on Hawaii’s strong state civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination,” commission Executive Director William Hoshijo said. “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.”

“In my past experiences in Hawaii, people have been so friendly. It was just hurtful. It made me feel we weren’t good enough,” Cervelli said, after the ruling.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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