A couple from Hawaii attempted to keep a baby with them at a seaside facility.

LINCOLNVILLE (AP) – An elegant seaside inn that markets itself to couples looking for a romantic getaway violated Maine law by banning children, the state Human Rights Commission ruled.

A couple from Hawaii, evicted two years ago from a room at the Inn at Ocean’s Edge, won a ruling Monday against Ray and Marie Donner, the inn’s owners.

The violation happened after Gilbert and Elizabeth Riviere went to Camden for the wedding of Elizabeth’s sister.

The rooms at the Inn at Ocean’s Edge go for almost $250 a night in the summer and include a canopy bed, large hot tub and gas fireplace.

The Rivieres tried to pay in advance for a room for the newlyweds, but were told there was a two-night minimum. They paid for two nights and decided they would use the room themselves for one night.

An inn employee saw Gilbert Riviere running into the building with what appeared to be a baby shielded under his coat, Ray Donner told the commission.

Donner stood outside the couple’s room and heard a baby’s whine. He called the room and told the Rivieres they had to leave, but they refused, he said.

The innkeeper then called state police. After Donner showed a trooper the confirmation card stipulating the room’s capacity at two, the Rivieres were sent packing.

Donner refused to refund the cost of the night’s stay, though he offered to let the couple stay in the room the following night. The Rivieres declined.

Commission members seemed sympathetic to Donner’s position, but they said his policy banning children under 14 was in clear violation of state law.

Maine lodging establishments with no more than five rooms that serve breakfast and whose owners live on the premises can ban children. The Inn at Ocean’s Edge has 27 rooms.

The human rights panel found there were reasonable grounds that Donner had discriminated against the Rivieres on the basis of their 21-month-old son, even though they were finally evicted because of the inn’s two-person capacity.

David Siegel, executive director of the Maine Lodging Association, said Tuesday that many of the state’s innkeepers are probably unaware they cannot ban children. He and Donner believe that innkeepers should be able to signal to prospective guests that a particular inn is not suitable for children.

Donner said he knows not to turn away children again, but the commission found that the inn’s Web site still indicates that the establishment may not be appropriate for children under 14, which is discriminatory.

If that disclaimer is illegal, then many lodging businesses are in trouble.

The Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce publishes a guide that categorizes accommodations that welcome children and those that do not, said Greg Dugal, the group’s executive director.

The Chamber of Commerce will consider changing the publication, but Dugal noted that publications from Bar Harbor, Rockland and elsewhere in Maine have the same kind of listings.

AP-ES-04-09-03 1100EDT



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