Correction to This Article
A Jan. 24 Style article on gay-friendly lodgings in Virginia incorrectly said that the facilities cannot lawfully discriminate against guests based on sexual orientation.

Gay Stays in Virginia

The Inn at Court Square, a downtown Charlottesville bed-and-breakfast, is one of several gay-friendly inns in Virginia.
The Inn at Court Square, a downtown Charlottesville bed-and-breakfast, is one of several gay-friendly inns in Virginia. (Stephanie Gross - For The Washington Post)
By Gary Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

No rainbow flag flies outside the red-brick mansion in downtown Charlottesville. No lambda sign hangs in the window. From outside, the Inn at Court Square looks like most of the other handsome Federal-style buildings lining Jefferson Street.

But inside, amid the antique wood furnishings, chandeliers and Oriental carpets, owner Candace DeLoach has fashioned this guesthouse into one of the most gay-friendly hotels in Virginia. While much of the clientele is straight -- parents of university students, business executives, couples in town for a getaway -- gay men and lesbian travelers know this as a welcoming haven where they can check in and kick back without worries of second glances or raised eyebrows.

DeLoach has worked at creating just that feeling. "I want this to be an everybody- friendly place," she said in a conversation at the inn. Tall and blond, dressed in jeans and boots, she exudes the warmth and self-assurance of a natural host. "But I want it especially to be gay-friendly," she added. "To me, that means an atmosphere where gays can be themselves without fear of being judged."

Fair enough. But in Virginia, finding enclaves like that seems to be no small feat. This is, after all, the place where, in November, 58 percent of voters favored a ban on same-sex marriage. It's also the home of the seven Episcopal parishes opposed to the consecration of a gay bishop that broke ties with the U.S. Episcopal Church in December. In recent months, some Virginia gays reportedly have decided to move to more accepting locales.

Still, there are accommodations that offer same-sex couples, gays with families or gay singles a comfortable escape for an overnight stay or weekend. Although no public facility can lawfully discriminate against guests based on sexual orientation, some warm more easily than others to two men (or women) checking in together. It was no shock that Charlottesville, base of the University of Virginia and a liberal stronghold that voted solidly blue in the last election, would be home to a guesthouse with a loyal gay clientele. But there is also a small network of bed-and-breakfasts in other corners of the commonwealth that actively promote themselves to gay and lesbian travelers. Some are gay-owned, others not. After contacting several hoteliers, we came up with a list -- by no means comprehensive -- of inns where a same-sex couple would have no qualms holding hands in the lobby or showing up together at breakfast. (See box).

A first-time guest to the Inn at Court Square might take all of five minutes to feel at home. It's got just the kind of features you look for in an escape from the urban rush: antique furnishings in the hallway and sitting room, a book-filled library, easy chairs and reading lamps in the parlor. And the seven guest rooms, all decorated with a keen eye, are spacious, with comfortable beds, soft linens and private baths. Each has special features, including whirlpools, lavishly appointed four-poster beds, or an in-room fireplace. Breakfast, an inviting spread of warm breads, fresh juice, coffee, a hot dish and fresh fruit, makes an overnight stay complete.

Charlottesville has distractions enough (fine dining, mountain hiking, a theater and arts scene) to fill a couple of days. Antiquing is one of the biggest draws. DeLoach, who also runs DeLoach Antiques, next to the inn, offers tips on the best places to find deals.

The town, too, has a reputation for tolerance. Same-sex couples walking along the boutique-lined pedestrian mall, around the corner from the inn, or in restaurants around town are a common sight. Those looking for live music can find it most weekend nights at the Gravity Lounge, a club that frequently features gay performers. For the dancing crowd, Club 216, located on Water Street and open mostly on weekends, has a largely gay clientele.

But with a home base like this, who needs a dance club? Here, Old World tranquility -- and an inclusive mood -- are all-out draws. DeLoach, who is gay, says that's what she looks for when she travels.

"I don't want to be concerned about how people will react if I walk around holding my partner's hand. So, of course, I don't want guests here to worry about that either."

Inn at Court Square (410 E. Jefferson St., Charlottesville, 866-466-2877, Doubles range from $99 (in low season) to $299 a night, including breakfast.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company