US Supreme Court Rejects Hawaii B&B That Refused to Serve Lesbian Couple

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge to a lower court ruling that found that the owner of a Hawaii bed and breakfast violated a state anti-discrimination law by turning away a lesbian couple, citing Christian beliefs.

The justices refused to hear an appeal by Phyllis Young, who runs the three-room Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Honolulu, of the ruling that she ran afoul of Hawaii’s public accommodation law by refusing to rent a room to Diane Cervilli and Taeko Bufford in 2007. Litigation will now continue that will determine what penalty Young might face.

The case was appealed to the nine justices in the wake of the high court’s narrow 2018 decision siding with a baker from Colorado who refused based on his Christian faith to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

That decision did not resolve the question of whether business owners can claim religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws. Young said her decision to turn away the same-sex couple was protected by her right to free exercise of her religious beliefs under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

The Supreme Court in the baker case also did not address important claims including whether baking a cake is a kind of expressive act protected by the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee, a question not raised in the Hawaii case.

The conservative-majority court could yet weigh in soon on both issues as it has a separate appeal pending involving a different bakery in Oregon that refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)