What is a “place of public accommodation”?
A place that holds itself open to, and accepts the patronage of the general public is a place of public accommodation subject to Massachusetts non-discrimination laws (Mass. Gen. Laws, chap. 272, sec. 92A). This definition is intentionally broad and may include a motel, restaurant, rest area, highway or hospital, as just a few examples.
What does the law say about discrimination in places of public accommodation?
Such places may not discriminate, or make any distinctions, or impose any restrictions because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. “[W]hoever aides or incites” such discriminatory treatment may also be penalized under the law (Mass. Gen. Laws, chap. 272, sec. 98).
Example: women, who were attacked by a used car dealer when he realized they were lesbians, stated a claim under the law and were awarded damages in a settlement.
Example: two women who kissed on a bus and were then forced off of the bus by the driver were protected by the law because the driver did not order off of the bus a heterosexual couple who were kissing were awarded damages (Rome v. Transit Express, 19 Mass. Discrim. Law Rptr. (M.D.L.R.) 159 (1997), affirmed, 22 M.D.L.R. 88 (2000)).
Example: couples who were forcibly ejected from a night club because customers were uncomfortable with their being physically affectionate were awarded damages (Stoll et al. v. State Street Stock Exchange, Inc., 18 M.D.L.R. 141 (1996)).