The American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief Wednesday urging the court not to deny transgendered New Yorkers their right to live free of discrimination.
Hispanic AIDS Forum, an AIDS service organization represented by the ACLU, filed the suit against its former landlord after it was evicted because of complaints that HAF's transgendered clients were using the "wrong" bathrooms. All transgendered tenants were then banished from the common areas in the building.
In its brief, the ACLU stated that in four previous cases the courts have held that discrimination against transgendered people is illegal in New York. "The landlord argues that transgendered people are completely without civil rights protection in New York State," said James Esseks, litigation director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights and AIDS Project. "This could place transgendered New Yorkers in jeopardy of losing their jobs, their housing, and even their lives--all because someone wants to keep them out of the so-called wrong bathroom."
After HAF was forced out of its home of 10 years in Jackson Heights, Queens, the organization tried to negotiate with the landlord to reach an agreement over the use of the restrooms to please both parties, but the landlord refused to renew the lease.
"Being evicted from our offices, based on pure prejudice, made it more difficult for us to serve the needs of transgendered Latinos and Latinas living with HIV and AIDS," said Heriberto Sanchez Soto, executive director of HAF. "If our former landlord wins this lawsuit, it will hurt not just transgendered people with HIV but all transgendered people throughout New York State."
Under the city's human rights law, which was amended in 2002 to clarify that it covers gender identity, transgendered people living in New York City are protected from discrimination. The state human rights law does not include gender identity in its language, although previous trial court rulings have held that transgendered individuals are covered under the law's sex and disability provisions.