Originally published on Advocate.com October 16 2003 12:00 AM ET
The Hispanic AIDS Forum, New York's largest Latino AIDS service provider, has been allowed by a judge to proceed to trial with its lawsuit against a former landlord in Jackson Heights, Queens. The suit alleges transgender discrimination, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit was brought against HAF's former landlord for illegal eviction after the landlord complained that the organization's transgendered clients were using the "wrong" bathrooms and banished all transgendered people from the common areas of the building. "It is unfortunate that the bathroom has once again become a battleground in the fight for equal rights," said James Esseks, litigation director of the ACLU's AIDS Project. "The landlord's decision to exclude transgendered people from the bathrooms and common areas was just as wrong today as it was 50 years ago when business owners in the South tried to force African-Americans to use separate bathrooms."
The New York State trial court ruling was in response to a motion by the landlord, who claimed that transgendered people are not protected by the state's civil rights laws. The court joined other New York courts in interpreting the state's civil rights law to include protections for transgendered people. This is the first lawsuit under New York's civil rights law that has dealt with the issue of which bathrooms are appropriate for transgendered people to use. After the lawsuit was filed, New York City amended its civil rights law to provide explicit coverage for transgendered people. "By allowing this case to go forward, the judge has rightly recognized that transgendered people are protected under New York State's civil rights law," said Kesari Ruza, of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz, which is litigating the case with the ACLU. "Transgendered people no longer have to fear being fired from their jobs, kicked out of their homes, or being mistreated by businesses and agencies that serve the public."