Victory! Ruling in Hawaii Rejects Argument For Religious Discrimination in Places of Public Accommodation

By Shane Stahl • February 26, 2018 • 2:14 pm

On Friday, February 23, an appeals court in Hawaii handed a victory down to plaintiffs Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford, a married couple, in a case of outright discrimination by Aloha Bed and Breakfast, located in Hawaii.

The women initially filed the lawsuit, with Lambda Legal’s help, in 2011 after the bed and breakfast’s owner, Phyllis Young, said that her religious beliefs allowed her the right to refuse to rent a room to the couple. During investigation, Young admitted to turning the women away because she felt that homosexual relationships were “detestable” and “defiled the land.”

Friday’s ruling by the Hawaiian Intermediate Court of Appeals, upholding an earlier court’s decision and in agreement with a First Circuit Court’s ruling from 2013, found that the business broke Hawaii’s public accommodation law, which “requires equal access to facilities and services regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.”

Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal offered a statement, saying:

“This has never been a case about the money. It’s really been about a civil rights law that needs to protect everyone; it needs to be real and it needs to be followed. When people come for a vacation or other reasons to visit in Hawaii, everyone should be treated equally.”

The Hawaiian court’s ruling is only the latest in a string of judicial victories against LGBTQ discrimination. Most recently, in February 2017, the Washington State Supreme Court sided with a married same sex couple who were denied service by a florist in the case of Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers.

Most notably, the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission currently sits for decision before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case involves a same sex couple who were denied service by a Colorado bakery when the owner claimed his religious beliefs prevented him from providing the requested service. Oral arguments were held in December 2017, and the court’s decision is expected to come mid-2018.

To read more about all litigation concerning non-discrimination, visit our Litigation Tracker here.

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