Philly Lesbian Couple Says Virginia Hotel Refused Them a Room

Meredith Murray and Chivonn Anderson think their sexuality or their race prompted the incident at a Red Roof Inn. A hotel employee insists he didn't discriminate against anyone, and Red Roof's corporate office says this may be "an unfortunate misunderstanding."

Meredith Murray and Chivonn Anderson just hours before the incident at the Emporia, Virginia Red Roof Inn.

Meredith Murray and Chivonn Anderson just hours before the incident at the Virginia Red Roof Inn.

On Sunday night, South Philadelphia residents Meredith Murray and Chivonn Anderson packed up the car, ready to begin the long journey to visit Murray’s sister just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Murray works two jobs — at DiBruno Bros. and Cantina Los Caballitos on Passyunk Avenue — and Anderson is co-owner of Viva Empanadas, so the couple had been looking forward to a relaxing trip away from their busy lives in Pennsport, where they live together. But thanks to an incident at the Red Roof Inn in Emporia, Virginia, it has started out as anything but.

Murray made the reservation for the Red Roof Inn last week through Travelocity, paying for the single room in advance.

As you can see in the Travelocity confirmation, the room was guaranteed for late arrival. Murray says that when she first approached the Red Roof Inn check-in counter at 2 a.m. on Monday morning, the employee behind the counter was perfectly nice. She says she realized that she accidentally booked a smoking room, and that he offered to help change it to non-smoking, she recalls. But then, her girlfriend walked in.

Anderson, who had been parking the car, walked up next to her girlfriend and put her head on Murray’s shoulder. Immediately, claims the couple, the Red Roof Inn employee’s attitude changed.

“He just started staring at us,” says Murray, 34. “He wasn’t even trying to fake it. He said that he couldn’t help us.”

Murray says she pulled out her phone to show the hotel representative her Travelocity confirmation screen.

“But he wouldn’t even look at it,” she remembers. “He claimed that he didn’t have our information.”

“It was blatant refusal of service,” alleges Anderson, 35. “He just refused to give us the room. If you take one look at me, you know I’m a lesbian.”

“Plus, Chivonn is mixed race,” points out Murray.

As the couple sees it, the man behind the counter had a problem with them because they are lesbians or because they are a mixed-race couple, or both.

“Emporia is in the south,” says Murray. “Less than 20 miles from North Carolina. And we all know what’s going on in North Carolina and Georgia as well, with the big bathroom bills.”

But 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.

Murray called Travelocity on Monday morning, and says that the company offered an apology, a full refund, and a credit for a future reservation.

Red Roof Inn’s corporate office says the company is looking into the allegations and sent us the following statement:

Red Roof takes matters like this very seriously. Red Roof has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. Red Roof welcomes all families. We are looking into this matter which may be an unfortunate misunderstanding. Red Roof expects its franchisees to always follow the law.

The couple says that they haven’t experienced anything like this together before, including on a trip to the South last year. But Murray wonders if the times are changing.

“I feel like with Trump winning states, it’s giving people longer leashes to spout their hatred,” she observes.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.