A 24-year-old transgender man has filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, claiming he was targeted for discrimination last summer at a public pool in Staten Island.
The lawsuit, filed by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, along with Cleary Gottlief Steen & Hamilton LLP, marks the first time someone has sued the city for being denied use of public accommodations that match their gender identity.
Under Title 8 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, otherwise known as the NYC Human Rights Law, discrimination on the basis of one's gender identity is prohibited. While not explicitly enumerated in the law, a 2006 case involving transgender man Eric Buffong determined that transgender individuals are protected from discrimination, citing the law's ban on sex discrimination.
Last summer, plaintiff Brian Ellicott says he was denied entrance to the men's locker room by a staff member at a Staten Island swimming pool, which he claims constitutes discrimination.
"Incidents of discrimination against transgender people at public facilities restrict their ability to fully participate in society," a TLDEF press release states. "Being able to use a restroom without harassment and discrimination is essential to being able to do things like work or use public places. Everyone should have equal access to public facilities. Transgender people cannot be treated as less than full citizens and be denied the use of restrooms and locker rooms just because of who they are."
Ellicott and TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman announced the lawsuit at a press conference in New York's Foley Square at 11 a.m. Eastern.
Ellicott made headlines last year when a Human Rights Campaign staff member allegedly asked him to remove a trans pride flag he had brought with him to a rally outside the Supreme Court during the hearings regarding the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.
"[HRC Regional Field Director Karin] Quimby asked me, aggressively, 'What flag is this?' When I told her it was the Trans Pride Flag, she said, 'This [rally] is about marriage equality, this is not about the trans community," Ellicott wrote in an April 2013 op-ed. "Moments later, she came back to where I was standing and continued, 'You know what, you guys need to focus on what you need to do. We [HRC] are the organization that makes things happen.'"
Quimby later acknowledged the incident and apologized.