Lesbian Couple Suing Hawaii B&B Over Discrimination


Two women from South California have filed a lawsuit against a Hawaiin bed and breakfast, believing that the owner broke the state’s anti-discrimination law when she denied them a room because they are a lesbian couple.

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford traveled to Hawaii to visit a close friend and, based on its proximity to their friend’s home, decided to stop at the Aloha Bed & Breakfast. When they called to book a room the owner, Phyllis Young, asked the couple if they were in fact lesbians. They answered truthfully, says the suit, and the owner then refused them a room.

Cervelli and Bufford duly filed a discrimination complaint with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission. During the investigation Young is said to have admitted that she turned the couple away because they are lesbians, adding that same-sex relationships are “detestable” and that they, in her opinion, “defile our land.”

The lawsuit, filed with the First Circuit Court of Hawaii, says that Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford were denied a room in the commercial B&B simply because of the owner’s anti-gay beliefs. This denial of services runs contrary to Hawaii’s public accommodations law which prohibits any inn or “other establishment that provides lodging to transient guests” from discriminating based on sexual orientation, race, sex, gender identity or expression, religion, ancestry or disability. Aloha Bed & Breakfast is apparently claiming that the state’s antidiscrimination laws do not apply.

Personal statements come via the Lambda Legal press release:

“I can’t tell you how much it hurt to be essentially told, ‘we don’t do business with your kind of people.’ We don’t want anyone else to experience that and made to feel like they have no place in society. It still stings to this day,” Cervelli said. “We aren’t asking the owner to change her beliefs; we just want her to follow the law applicable to all Hawai’i businesses and not to deny us the same roof over our head that she provides to every other paying customer. We worked hard to save money to be able to visit our friend and her baby. We thought the days when business owners would say ‘we’re open to the public–but not to you’ was a thing of the past.”

“When you open the doors of your business to the public, Hawai’i law absolutely forbids you from discriminating against your customers. 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 Peter Renn, staff attorney at Lambda Legal. “No business owner is above the law. If you choose to open a business, then you must play by the same rules that apply to everyone else–you don’t get to pick and choose the laws that you like.”

Lambda Legal is also said to be looking into whether the bed and breakfast is even licensed to operate given that it does not appear to be on a list of approved bed and breakfast properties.

According to The Guardian Aloha B&B owner Phyllis Young has declined to comment on the case and is referring all questions to her legal team at the Alliance Defense Fund. Attorney Jim Hochberg for the AFA says he has not seen the complaint yet.

We will update you on this case as more information becomes available.

Related Reading:
Hawaii’s Trans Workplace Nondiscrimination Bill Goes To Governor’s Desk
Senators Back Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act
Hawaii Senate Passes Civil Unions Bill, Gov. To Sign

Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to Made Underground.


Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Emma, that being the case, I feel sorry for her students. She shouldn't be in charge of educating anyone else's kids, and sure shouldn't procreate herself.

Emma Clark
Emma Clark4 years ago

Diane & Elizabeth, I just wanted to let you know that Sarah is a high school science teacher. She talks about getting in here and posting comments. She's actually the head of the science department. She thinks it's funny the way she gets people "all riled up". Just thought I'd let you know. The best thing to give her is the silent treatment.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Yeah, I remember that word now, Nyack, and as you said, it's a Greek island. The manner in which Sarah used it was to insult and enflame a group of people........like the "N" word. Just amazing that in this world, such bigotry and ignorance still remain, isn't it? I think she and Newt may be related, whadda' ya' think? No, wait, he HAS a gay sister, doesn't he?

Sue H.
Sue H.4 years ago

This woman should have read the law before opening a business! She may not have one in the end because of her bigotry.

Nyack Clancy
Nyack Clancy4 years ago

Diane- "lesbos" is not Sarah's word, its an island in Greece.

In ancient Greece, Lesbos was an island where the famous Greek poet, Sappho taught.

Unfortunely, what ever paid education she has is seemingly incomplete.

One of these days, this "highly educated" woman is ging to make an ignorant, snarky remark like that to an employer who just may be a "lesbo", and it may cost her her job.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Sarah, when it comes to speaking for human rights, and basic decency, no, I don't "hold back". I am not fighting for "lesbos" (and how long did it take such an intelligent person as you to come up with THAT word?), and I sure as HELL am not paid by anyone, but do know a few who are, and they are decent, sweet, generous, compassionate humans, which is far more than anyone could say about you. As for "hard work", yes, I've been to college, on an academic scholarship, worked my entire life and raised two children, not to mention raising one of my grandsons, dozens upon dozens of rescued animals. Your turn, Sarah..........we're all anxiously awaiting for your next little tidbit of wisdom..........actually, Sunday night in Care.2 tends to be boring.........you are providing a ton of comic relief.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Sarah, you may be more educated than either Elizabeth or myself (BTW, you don't know what my credentials are, do you?), but you can't even come to my knee as far as humanity, morals or ethics are concerned. Your comments are being flagged, and it's almost amusing in a way, to read the venom and poison emitting from you, just sad that in this day & age, there could actually BE someone with your lack of logic.............one would THINK that in order to even be admitted TO a college or university, one would have to at least pass a basic I.Q. test.

Sarah W.
Sarah W.4 years ago

Elizabeth K. I do indeed have those degrees. I'm sure I don't know everything, but I'm SURE I know more than you EVER will!!!!!!

Sarah W.
Sarah W.4 years ago

Diane L. By all means don't hold back!!!!!! I'm not wasting anymore time with a piece of crap such as yourself. Keep on loving your lesbians sweetheart!!!! By the way I not only PAID for my degrees I EARNED them through HARD WORK. Do you know what hard work is? Oh, I guess you do with all the fighting you do for the lesbos!!!!!!!

Jay O.
Jay T. Stone4 years ago

*ocassion* that is ...

Why should anyone other than heterosexuals be able to show their love and affection to one another, Sarah? And don't bother repeating the how it's Disgusting all over again, as that is not even a valid argument and it is rather tiresome.

We see heterosexual stuff thrown in our faces just about every damn time we turn on the tv or open a magazine. Love making, kissing, etc, etc, it's everywhere. Sex is supposed to sell just about everything. Personally (and this is not intended to insult anyone here who is straight) I don't get the attraction between a man and a woman - as I have never been attracted to a man in that fashion, and I don't ever see myself being attracted to a man becasue I love women too much, but you don't see me being as ugly as you about how others live their lives. All I care about is whether two people love one another and that they respect each other equally. That's what's important here.