Denied a room because they’re not gay enough?

Swetlana Wall/Shutterstock
Swetlana Wall/Shutterstock
Hotels turn away guests for all kinds of reasons, but here’s one you don’t hear every day: You’re not gay enough.

That’s what Laura Bradmeyer says a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hotel did to her parents when they tried to check in recently. A receptionist told her father the hotel wouldn’t honor his reservation.

“He was told that no women were allowed,” she remembers. “My parents were not charged anything, but they were turned away.”

Eventually, her parents found a room in a different hotel. But Bradmeyer wonders: is the resort allowed to tell guests to leave because of their gender or sexual orientation?

“Although the hotel clearly noted on the website that it was a gay resort, I would think that discriminating against hotel guests based on gender was illegal,” she says. “I would also think that based on the clear misunderstanding and how late it was at their arrival, the hotel could have just let them stay the night on the condition that they didn’t visit any common areas.”

I made several attempts to contact the hotel, the Royal Palms Resort & Spa, to get its side of the story, but it did not respond. Bradmeyer is correct in at least one respect: No one visiting the Royal Palms’ site could be left with the impression that it’s not a gay resort.

Can they do that?

My decidedly non-lawyerly reading of Florida’s lodging statues suggests the hotel might be allowed to refuse a guest. Section 509.141 says hotel operators may turn away “undesirable” guests, including those whose “conduct which disturbs the peace and comfort of other guests or which injures the reputation, dignity, or standing of the establishment.”

Banning women from gay establishments isn’t unique to the hotel industry. In Australia, a gay bar recently won the right to keep women out. Seems the “predatory” females were making the male patrons uncomfortable.

A better question is: Did the Royal Palms go about it in the right way?

Although the hotel’s site is clear that this is an establishment that caters to homosexual men, I could find no mention of it banning female guests — whether they were straight, gay or bisexual. At the very least, someone from the hotel could have phoned Bradmeyer’s parents after noticing they were a heterosexual couple, to let them know they might feel more comfortable elsewhere.

Turning away a guest at midnight isn’t what I’d call exemplary customer service.

Research before you buy

Bradmeyer says her parents knew they’d booked a gay hotel shortly after making the reservations through an online travel agency.

“Mother easily discovered that it was a gay resort,” she says. “As they are open-minded, they decided to keep the reservation, since the hotel did look very nice and it was only for one night.”

If nothing else, Bradmeyer’s story illustrates the importance of careful planning. You don’t look up your hotel after you’ve made a reservation, particularly in this age of nonrefundable reservations. You do the quality-control beforehand, which includes checking the online reviews and ratings.

Had Bradmeyer’s parents known they were not wanted at the Royal Palms, they might have looked elsewhere for accommodations.

In the end, the family thought the whole episode was funny and since they quickly found another hotel for the night, they weren’t offended.

“We had a laugh about it,” says Bradmeyer.

But, for other guests, a “wrong vacation” problem might be no laughing matter. At this time of year, it happens to a fair number of newbie business travelers who check into a beach resort during spring break. Hard to get any work done when your neighbors are partying until 4 a.m.

From time to time, I also hear from cruise passengers who are shocked that their travel agent booked their family on a singles cruise. Also popular in this genre of complaint: religious fundamentalists stuck on a gay cruise, classical music lovers on a jazz cruise and foodies on a fitness cruise. A little research would have eliminated that misunderstanding.

The Royal Palms may have been well within its rights to turn away Bradmeyer’s parents. It might have helped the couple find alternate accommodations. But better yet, the guests should have avoided the misunderstanding in the first place by investigating their accommodations before they booked the room.

Should the Royal Palms Resort and Spa have denied Bradmeyer's parents a room?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Alex

    Although it’s not easy, it might be helpful to try to view this situation from another person’s shoes. Our society is fiercely heteronormative. That’s a $10 word that simply means that being heterosexual is normal and anything else is not.

    For work, I’m an independent contractor. Every day, I find myself working closely with people I literally have just met. I’m also gay. That means that every day I try to guess how people will react if I answer honestly when small talk ensues. Straight folks wouldn’t think twice about answering this question: “Are you married?” For the lesbian and gay community, answering that question becomes a political act.

    While things are getting better for people like me, the fight is far from over. In 29 states, it’s 100% legal to fire someone solely because she or he is gay. Since I live in one of those states, I usually avoid telling anyone with which I work that I am gay.

    Constantly denying who you are out of fear of discrimination is how many gay and lesbian people live.

    So, places like gay bars and gay guest houses/hotels are safe places where being gay is normal. Situations like the one described here make most gay and lesbian people uncomfortable. It’s walking the fine line between creating places where small talk isn’t political and doing the very thing (discrimination) that we are trying to escape by going to that place.

  • TonyA_says

    Hail to the cruel majority!
    The reason why gays need to segregate themselves is because they were/are persecuted by heterosexuals. Many heterosexuals don’t like what gays do. If gays did their pool parties in a straight hotel, someone might call the police and have them arrested. So in order for them to enjoy the same liberties as heterosexuals, they needed their own resort hotels.

    Now we heterosexuals want to go to their hotels? For what? There are so many other straight hotels. We are not being deprived of anything by not being allowed to stay in gay hotels. Oh, do we want more and more heterosexuals to stay in gay hotels so we can drive them out of their own hotels.
    Some discrimination is good. If discrimination protects the rights of minorities to enjoy life like the majority does, then it’s good. I suppose many laws were made by heterosexuals who didn’t care much for gays. Don’t expect gays to like those laws. They can always be changed.

  • y_p_w

    I live in an area where is generally accepted that there are gay people everywhere. I don’t know of any business (even self-described gay bars) that would deny service to someone based on being straight or being female. They’d probably be in line for a pretty nice lawsuit were they to even try.

    However, the subject of this piece is a place that simply wouldn’t allow a guest simply on the basis that she was a woman.

  • y_p_w

    Anti-discrimination laws on the basis of sexual preference were meant to help those who are gay. However, it also works both ways. In California this would be a clear violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

    The authorities in the field do permit a proprietor to deny service to a person guilty of conduct unduly offensive to other patrons. But, as pointed out inMarina Point, Ltd. v. Wolfson, supra, 30 Cal. 3d 721, 725: “As our prior decisions teach, the Unruh Act preserves the traditional broad authority of owners and proprietors of business establishments to adopt reasonable rules regulating the conduct of patrons or tenants; it imposes no inhibitions on an owner’s right to exclude any individual who violates such rules. Under the act, however, an individual who has committed no such misconduct cannot be excluded solely because he falls within a class of persons whom the owner believes is more likely to engage in misconduct than some other group. Whether the exclusionary policy rests on the alleged undesirable propensities of those of a particular race, nationality, occupation, political affiliation, or age, in this context the Unruh Act protects individuals from such arbitrary discrimination.”

    So what does this mean? It means that someone walking through the door hasn’t done anything simply on the basis of being female in (let’s say) an establishment that openly caters to gay men. They wouldn’t be able to assume that a woman is there to cause trouble. My reading of the Florida laws is actually pretty similar. They say that specific behaviors or attributes unrelated to being in a specific protected class can be used to deny service, but imply that being in the protected class can’t be used as an assumption that such behavior will be likely.

  • TonyA_says

    If it was so easy to walk them to a non-gay hotel, then why didn’t the hotel do it? If it was SOP, why didn’t they do it? So there is something else here. This story does not fit the mold of a typical travel problem. If the hotel wanted the OP’s folks money, they could have walked them to a cheap hotel. That’s what most hotels do. But they did not charge money and said bye. The resort does not want to deal with non-gay men or women. That’s why. That’s not their clientele. They don’t care. If it was another gay man who needed a room, they probably would have walked him to another gay hotel. Note that these are all boutique resorts that are not franchised with a chain or national brand. I don’t even expect them to behave and act like a “typical” hotel. Just one look at their website (especially the image gallery) tells me there is nothing typical.

  • TonyA_says

    Let’s stick to FL law. CA has nothing to do with it.
    Now bear in mind, they kicked out both a man and woman.
    So you could not say they discriminated against BOTH genders, can you? What the hotel did was discriminate based on sexual orientation or “gayness”. That’s not in violation of the FL Civil Rights Act you posted above.

  • KaraJones

    Well, it’s late and I keep thinking about that “sex out under the stars” comment…but I live in the city and we can only see about 3 stars – so it would be more like sex out under 27 high-rise apartment buildings. It just lost all its appeal.

  • Guest

    “Let’s stick to FL law. CA has nothing to do with it.”
    That’s so funny coming from the guy who likes to bring in examples for other countries.

  • y_p_w

    How do they know? Suppose two straight men decide to share a room together and they show up at registration together. Would they be grilled about how gay they are?

    Heck – what if the husband in this case registered by himself with his wife waiting in the car. Heck – I’ve done that before at many hotels.

    Even then, they way the law is written would seem to be broad enough to make this kind of discrimination illegal. Suppose it was two lesbian women who showed up and were denied accommodations? Is that the wrong kind of gayness?

  • y_p_w

    Apparently Sandals changed their policy on same-sex couples almost a decade ago.


    Sandals, which operates 12 couples-only resorts on the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua and the Bahamas, has ended a policy, in effect since 1981, that excluded same-sex couples. In August, the company, which had recently been under attack by gay-rights advocates because of that policy, quietly lifted the restriction.”

  • MarkieA

    I think it might be that the gay community has long fought against discrimination based on sexual preference, and here this place is doing exactly that.