Appeals court upholds ruling against B&B owner who refused room to gay couple

Lesbian couple wins discrimination lawsuit against Hawaii Kai bed and breakfast owner
Updated: Feb. 23, 2018 at 11:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Attorneys for California couple Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford are calling it a "great day for justice."

On Friday, Hawaii's Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld a previous ruling that found a Hawaii Kai bed and breakfast was discriminatory for refusing the lesbian couple a room because of their sexual orientation.

The women were represented by Lambda Legal, a nonprofit LGBTQ rights organization.

"This has never been a case about the money," said Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal. "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."

Throughout the case, lawyers for the owner of Aloha Bed & Breakfast claimed Phyllis Young's religious views allowed her to refuse to rent a room to a same-sex couple.

Upon investigation, Young admitted to turning the women away because she felt that homosexual relationships were "detestable" and "defiled the land."

The court rejected that argument and found that the home business broke Hawaii's public accommodation law, which requires equal access to facilities and services regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

"When you run a business in your house, it's a business and you can't discriminate," said Robin Wurtzel, chief counsel for the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.

"Religious freedom is a very important American value, but it doesn't mean a right to violate the law," added Pizer.

On it's website, the business appears to still be up and running and touts itself as a Hawaii Kai Christian B&B home on a ridge with breathtaking views of east Oahu.

The owner and her attorneys did not return HNN's calls Friday.

"What I want people to take away from this is a sense of hopefulness that the court does the right thing, that sometimes justice prevails," said Wurtzel.

The First Circuit Court ruled in favor of Cervelli and Bufford in April in 2013.

Another judge will determine how much the women should be paid.

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