Lawsuit filed after lesbian couple denied room at Hawaii Kai bed and breakfast

Published: Dec. 19, 2011 at 4:30 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2011 at 12:07 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Lambda Legal press conference Monday
Lambda Legal press conference Monday
Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford
Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford
Peter Renn, Lambda Legal
Peter Renn, Lambda Legal

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HAWAII KAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A couple from Los Angeles on Monday filed a lawsuit against a bed and breakfast operation in Hawaii Kai, claiming they were denied a room reservation because of their sexual orientation.

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford were looking forward to their trip to Hawaii. However, their mood quickly changed when they say their first choice for lodging discriminated against them.

Cervelli, a veterinary technician, and Bufford, a social worker, have been a couple for five years. In 2007, acting on a friend's recommendation, they tried to book a room at a bed and breakfast on Kahauloa Place on Mariners Ridge, but say they were rejected.

"The discrimination that we felt, it was so hurtful," Bufford said. "It was upsetting. It was humiliating. It made us feel like we were an outcast."

On its web site, Aloha Bed and Breakfast boasts many pluses, including enchanting views, a large swimming pool and customized meals. Cervelli says she spoke with owner Phyllis Young and provided her partner's name while making the reservation.

"Then the owner asked me point blank if I was a lesbian," Cervelli said. "After being stunned, I answered the question honestly. At that time, I was told by the owner that she can not rent us a room as she was uncomfortable with same-sex couples."

On behalf of the couple, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit accusing Aloha Bed and Breakfast of breaking Hawaii's public accommodation law, which requires equal access to facilities and services regardless of a person's race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

"The business owner here absolutely has a right to cling to her anti-gay personal beliefs, but that doesn't give her an excuse to violate the law or to harm other people," Peter Renn, Lambda Legal, said.

The B and B's attorney, Jim Hochberg, says he hasn't seen the suit so he cannot comment.

Lambda Legal says it hasn't been able to find a license permitting Aloha Bed and Breakfast to operate. In any case...

"The anti-discrimination law applies to anyone who makes their place of business open to the public," Renn said. "So, yes, they would still have to comply with the anti-discrimination law."

Hochberg says he's defending Young with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.