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Hawaii Supreme Court refuses B&B’s appeal of discrimination ruling

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The Hawaii Supreme Court on July 10 rejected a petition from a bed and breakfast seeking review of a lower court ruling that the business had violated Hawaii’s anti-discrimination statute when it denied a room to a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation.

Aloha Bed & Breakfast, whose owner says same-sex relationships “defile our land,” is represented by the anti-LGBT legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which claimed a religious justification for the discrimination. The Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed in February the lower court ruling, but the Hawaii Supreme Court declined to review that decision.

“In letting the existing decision stand, Hawaii today joined a long line of states across the country that understand how pernicious and damaging a religious license to discriminate would be,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn said. “In fact, since the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop in early June, three state courts — in Arizona, Oregon, and now Hawaii — have either ruled against or refused to review rulings against business owners who have claimed religious justifications to discriminate.”

“That is the just and proper understanding of the U.S. Constitution,” Renn added. “Religious freedom is protected, but it cannot be used as a justification for discrimination. If you operate a business, you are open to all.”

In December 2011, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in the First Circuit Court of Hawaii on behalf of Diane Cervelli and Taeko (Ty) Bufford, a lesbian couple’s allegation that Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Hawaii Kai denied them a room. The couple had contacted the B&B because it was near the home of a close friend who had just had a baby. However, when the B&B owner learned Diane and Ty were a same-sex couple, she refused to rent them a room. Diane and Ty contacted the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, and in the course of the subsequent HCRC investigation, the owner admitted that she turned the couple away because they were lesbians, stating that she believed same-sex relationships are “detestable.”

The First Circuit Court ruled for Cervelli and Bufford in April 2013, and Aloha B&B then appealed to the Intermediate Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court ruling in February of this year.

In early June, SCOTUS issued a narrow ruling reversing the Colorado Supreme Court ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission because the Commission had purportedly demonstrated a bias about religion in its verdict against the cakeshop, which had refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. SCOTUS then reversed and remanded back to the Washington Supreme Court ruling against a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

However, shortly after the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, an Arizona appellate court ruled that a Phoenix stationary store could not exempt itself from the city nondiscrimination ordinance. And the Oregon Supreme Court denied hearing the appeal of a Gresham baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Gresham baker has announced he will seek U.S. Supreme Court review in his case.

Read the Hawaii Supreme Court order here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/cerveilli_hi_20180710_order-rejecting-application-for-writ-of-certiorari. Read about the case here:https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/cervelli-v-aloha-bed-and-breakfast.

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