Hawaii B&B owner out of luck at Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court. Photo by Matt H. Wade.

The Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a religious liberty case for next term concerning a woman, Phyllis Young, in Hawaii who declined to rent a room in her bed & breakfast to a lesbian couple out of objections to same-sex marriage.

The court's action leaves in place a lower court opinion that went against Young.

Young, who runs Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Hawaii, welcomes guests to rent rooms so long as they are not same-sex couples.

After Diane Cervelli and Takeo Bufford tried to reserve a room and were declined, they filed a charge of discrimination with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission in 2008.

In 2018, the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals issued a ruling affirming that the business had engaged in discrimination but left pending any damages to be awarded.

Lawyers for Young asked the Supreme Court to take up the case before the lower court has issued a final ruling.

In briefs, her lawyers argue that Hawaii has given Young a "stark choice" between remaining true to her faith or ceasing to rent bedrooms in her house, endangering her livelihood.

Young is a devout Christian, her lawyers say in briefs, "who believes that she is morally responsible for the sexual activity that takes place under her roof."

It was unlikely that the Supreme Court would take up this case because there was no final judgment. In addition, the case is complicated by the fact that Young thought she was exempted from the public accommodations law because she was renting less than four rooms in her house.

The case is similar to a 2018 Supreme Court case where the justices ruled in favor of a cake baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex couple. That opinion was closely tailored to the facts specific to that case at hand. It was not a broad ruling on whether businesses nationwide could deny services to LGBT individuals based on religious objections to same-sex marriage.

The case at hand concerning Young has not reached a final judgment and will continue to percolate in lower courts.

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter. The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

The Gayly – March 19, 2019 @ 7:45 a.m. CDT.