That’s Some Gaydar!

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Jason Pickel and Darren Black Bear were looking for a reasonably priced place to stay for a while, so they went to Affordable Suites of America in Sumter, South Carolina. At the desk, they asked about rates, deposits, and things of that nature, and then were cut short by the clerk, who said “We don’t rent to multiple people of the same sex.” “So you don’t rent to gay couples?” Pickel asked her. “No,” she said, “we don’t rent to gay people at all.”

There is no law in South Carolina that protects gay citizens from housing discrimination, so Affordable Suites of America has broken no law. But the clerk’s comments beg analysis:

If the hotel does not rent to “multiple people of the same sex,” that means that a mother and daughter or two sisters traveling together, two women on a vacation, or two businesswomen traveling together cannot stay at the Sumter Affordable Suites of America. They must turn away quite a few people.

“We don’t rent to gay people at all” means that a gay person traveling alone could not rent a suite at the hotel. But how do the clerks determine who is gay? Is there a test? And if a presumably heterosexual person is traveling with a gay person, does the heterosexual person get the room and the gay person sleep in the hall? What about bisexual people? Can the clerks determine who they are, too? And do they get to stay?

Aside from the ugly bigotry involved, the “regulation” is absurd. Fortunately, there is at least a chance this nonsense may soon be a thing of the past: A bill in the South Carolina senate seeks to expand the Lodging Establishment Act to include a ban on housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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