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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 22, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 12
SCOTUS turns down freedom-of-religion appeal
Section One
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SCOTUS turns down freedom-of-religion appeal

B&B refused to book Lesbian couple

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The US Supreme Court announced on March 18 that it would not hear the appeal of a Hawaii bed-and-breakfast that refused to accommodate a Lesbian couple on religious grounds.

In 2007, Aloha Bed and Breakfast refused to book Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford, a Lesbian couple. They filed a complaint with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, charging the B&B with discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, which is illegal under Hawaii state law.

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

Aloha B&B did not deny the couple's claim but asserted that its discriminatory actions were protected under the First Amendment's freedom of religion clause.

The Hawaii 1st 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 review that decision.

The B&B then filed a petition for certiorari before the US Supreme Court, citing its First Amendment claims. The high court's decision to 'deny cert' - in other words, to refuse to hear the case - allows the lower court decisions to stand.

Peter Renn, counsel for Lambda Legal's Western Regional Office, said the denial of certiorari affirms nondiscrimination laws for LGBT people in face of objections based on 'religious freedom' claims.

'The Supreme Court's decision to let the lower court ruling stand reaffirms that the freedom of religion does not give businesses a right to violate nondiscrimination laws that protect all individuals from harm, whether on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation,' Renn said.

'The Supreme Court declined to consider carving out an exception from this basic principle when a business discriminates based on the sexual orientation of its customers. LGBT people deserve an equal right to go about their everyday life without the fear that discrimination waits for them around the corner.'

Although the anti-LGBT legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom initially served as counsel for Aloha Bed & Breakfast, a private attorney, James Hochberg, filed the unsuccessful appeal petition before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court's decision to hear the Aloha B&B appeal comes nearly a year after justices issued a narrow ruling for Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop. Phillips was penalized under Colorado law for refusing to produce a wedding cake for same-sex couple.

In its Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the Supreme Court ruled for baker based on the narrow facts of the case, finding anti-religion bias on the part of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, but stopped short of ruling there is a First Amendment right to discriminate against LGBT customers.

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