Supreme Court Snubs Hawaii B&B That Denies Same-Sex Couples

Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford. Image via Eric Risberg, AP

(WB) The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced it has refused to hear the case of a Hawaii bed and breakfast that sought to refuse service to same-sex couples out of religious objections.

The high court indicated it had denied certiorari to Aloha Bed & Breakfast, or refused to take up its case, in an order list Monday reflecting decisions justices made during a conference on Friday.

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The denial of certiorari effectively means the lawsuit against Aloha Bed & Breakfast, which was found to have violated Hawaii civil rights laws for refusing boarding to Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford in 2007.

The initial lawsuit, Aloha Bed & Breakfast v. Dianne Cervelli, was filed by Lambda Legal on behalf of the same-sex couple after they were denied service. The co-plaintiff in the case was the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.

According to the complaint, after Cerveilli emailed Phyllis Young, the owner of the Hawaii B&B about a potential room, she was initially told there was an availability. When Cervelli disclosed she was bringing a same-sex partner, Young replied, “Are you both lesbians?” The owner then refused boarding, saying she was uncomfortable with having lesbians in her home.

The Hawaii First Circuit Court ruled for the same-sex couple in April 2013. Although Aloha B&B appealed to the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals, that court affirmed the lower court ruling. Last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court refused to hear that decision.

But the Aloha Bed & Breakfast wasn’t done. Represented by the anti-LGBT legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, the businesses filed in October 2018 a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court, citing a First Amendment right to refuse service to same-sex couples for religious reasons.

“The Commission officially labeled her religious beliefs unlawful ‘discrimination’ despite the fact that Mrs. Young declines to rent bedrooms in her family home to any romantic partners other than a married man and women — Hawaii’s only recognized form of marriage in 2007,” the petition says. “For this ‘crime’ of being a faithful Catholic, the Commission sought punitive damages and statutory penalties that could cause Mrs. Young to lose her home.”

ADF also asserted Aloha Bed & Breakfast’s Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated because the establishment, which rents out 1-3 rooms in the owner’s personal home, wasn’t given fair notice Hawaii civil rights law would apply to her.

The Supreme Court’s decision to deny certiorari to Aloha Bed & Breakfast comes nearly a year after justices issued a narrow ruling for Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who was penalized under Colorado law for refusing service to a same-sex couple. Although the Supreme Court didn’t issue a First Amendment right to discriminate as Phillips requested, the court ruled for baker based on the narrow facts of the case, finding anti-religion bias on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

More to come…


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