Intermediate Court of Appeals Issues a Decision Affirming that Businesses Cannot Discriminate Based on Religious Beliefs

Posted on Mar 14, 2018 in News

On February 23, 2018, the Hawaiʻi Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed a lower court’s summary judgment decision against Aloha Bed and Breakfast, which denied a room to a vacationing lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation. The bed and breakfast owner claimed a religious basis for the discriminatory action.


The business claimed that its bed and breakfast was housing, not transient accommodations subject to state law prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations. The court disagreed, holding that a bed and breakfast is a public accommodation, subject to the nondiscrimination laws of Hawaiʻi.  The ICA also found that there is no tight living exemption, or “Mrs. Murphy’s exemption,” (which allows landlords to select tenants based on even discriminatory preferences when renting a room in their own home under specific criteria) in the public accommodations law.


The ICA also rejected a constitutional defense that application of the state law prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation violated the rights of free exercise of religion, privacy, or intimate association. The ICA found Hawaiʻi’s nondiscrimination laws apply to all businesses, regardless of whether they are home based, and regardless of an owner’s religious beliefs.


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