Update: Emporia Red Roof Inn employee to be fired after denying same-sex couple a room
Update: 1:30 PM 4/6
Red Roof Inn has replied to questions sent by GayRVA saying the employee who allegedly denied service to a same-sex couple had “inadvertently cancelled their reservation earlier that day on the Red Roof Central Reservation System,” but was still in the process of being terminated.
“It appears that this Front Desk Guest Services Rep, who has been with this particular franchise for roughly a month, did not entirely understand how to rebook reservations through Red Roof’s System,” the statement reads. “Accordingly, Red Roof does not believe that this franchisee’s employee was purposely denying a room to Ms. Murray and Ms. Anderson.”
The Emporia Red Roof Inn is a franchise location, and the corporate office said they do not have control over personal decisions for franchisees, however they stressed the company’s commitment to diversity saying it “helped in the effort to oppose the Religious Freedom Bill in Georgia which would have let business owners discriminate against individuals on the basis of religion.”
The statement also said Red Roof Guest Relations is “in the process of reaching out to the guests to help remedy their concerns,” however a Murray said she has yet to receive a call from anyone at the company.
Girlfriends Meredith Murray and Chivonn Anderson (top image) were on a trip to visit their families over Easter when they believe something tragic happened.
Their annual trip to Charleston, SC, was disrupted on their drive home at around 2 AM when they arrived at an Emporia, VA, Red Roof Inn and tried to check into their hotel room.
“The guy was nice enough, then a few minutes later Chivonn [her girlfriend] walked in,” said Murray, 34, and a resident of Philadelphia, PA. “I had my phone in my hand and she came and put her chin on my shoulder to look on my phone as well…”
Murray had reserved the room through the travel service Travelocity, but as she stood their with her girlfriend, she said the man behind the counter refused to give them a room, saying it wasn’t in his system.
According to Murray, She showed him the email confirmation on her phone, but he ignored it. “He pretended to look,” she said.
Take a look at the confirmation email below:
Murray tried to convince the clerk otherwise, but he continued to refuse them service.
“He made us leave, he refused to even try and offer us a room,” she said. “He wasn’t even typing… he was not in anyway motivated to solve the confusion.”
A call to Travelocity at the time didn’t yield results, so the couple hopped back in their car and head to another hotel for the night.
The next day they called Tavelocity the next day who Murray said confirmed their reservation and couldn’t understand what happened. They offered her a refund and $50 credit toward future travel.
Murray believes she was denied the room because they are lesbians.
Philly Mag reached out to the Emporia Red Roof Inn only to be run in circles about the possibility of Murray’s claim being true:
…the Red Roof Inn employee that the couple dealt with tells Philadelphia magazine that he doesn’t discriminate against anyone, and he specifically denies that he has an issue with lesbians or mixed-race couples. According to the employee, Murray’s name didn’t show up on his computer screen.
“So how am I supposed to give her a room if her name doesn’t come up?” he asked us when we reached him on Monday afternoon.
We pointed out that Murray had a Travelocity confirmation on her phone.
“It doesn’t matter,” he insisted.
Originally, the employee told us that the hotel was full, that there were no rooms available — something that Murray and Anderson say he absolutely never told them. When we pressed him on that detail, he backed away from his claim that there were no vacancies. Shortly thereafter, he hung up.
All of this happened over Easter Weekend, and when PhillyMag broke the story on March 28th, Red Roof Inn said they take the issue very seriously and would look into the matter “which may be an unfortunate misunderstanding.”
“Red Roof expects its franchisees to always follow the law,” read a statement sent to Philly Mag.
GayRVA has reached out to Red Roof Inn to see if they’ve found anything in their internal investigation, but the truth is what may have happened here, denying service to someone because they are LGBTQ, is not against the law in Virginia.
“Unfortunately, in Virginia, businesses that are places of public accommodation that discriminate against people on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity do not face legal repercussions,” said Gail Deady – The Secular Society/Women’s Rights Legal Fellow at VA ACLU.
Deady said neither the Commonwealth or the Federal Government offer protections on the basis of sexual orientation, and even if they wanted to try and sue, there would be no legal basis for the case.
“What really would need to change here is the GA needs to amend the Virginia Human Rights Act to create a remedy for people who are discriminated in public accommodations on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Deady, who also offered up Congress passing the Equal Rights Amendment as an alternative solution.
As the leading civil rights group in the state, Deady said they get calls from LGBTQ folks being denied services more often then you’d think, and they “unfortunately have to tell people there isn’t a legal remedy here, there isn’t grounds to file a lawsuit.”
She said someone could file a complaint with the Virginia Human Rights commission, but they lack the power or authority to do anything about this kind of discrimination.
“It’s obviously a struggle when you have to tell people to call your Senator, your Delegate…” Deady said. “When we go up and share these stories, we need more of these stories to share. We need to point out how pervasive this problem is to the people who have the power to change the law.”
We plan to update this story when Red Roof Inn replies with an updated comment.
The full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled 8-3 that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBT people from workplace discrimination. This is a historic ruling, given that the full court reviewed the case, Hively v. Ivy Tech, en banc. This is, as the AP notes, “the first time a federal appellate [...]April 5, 2017
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