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Costume Store Sued After Manager Allegedly Chases, Threatens Gay Man

Trevor Anderson with partner and director of Fairness West Virginia
Trevor Anderson (Middle) with his partner and director of Fairness West Virginia

The store's manager allegedly told the victim he would "beat his a**" if he saw him again. 

A man in West Virginia is suing a costume store after the store's manager allegedly called him antigay slurs and threatened him.

LGBTQ+ rights group Fairness West Virginia filed the lawsuit on behalf of Trevor Anderson last month, according to a news release. The Spirit Halloween manager in Charleston, Wv., called him a "faggot," after which he chased Anderson out of the store and chased him through the parking lot threatening to fight him.

In the suit, Anderson says he went to return a costume to the store. When he got to the register, the manager, Thelmon Penn, took over for the cashier. When Anderson said he was returning the costume because it didn't fit, Anderson says Penn told him, "Maybe you shouldn't try to wear women's clothes."

Anderson then told Penn he wanted his contact information. "I'll give you my name, but I'm not giving my number to a [faggot]," Penn allegedly said, according to the suit.

"Get out of my store," he continued before threatening to "beat his a**" if Anderson returned.

A copy of the complaint can be found here.

In it, lawyers for Anderson allege that Spirit Halloween and its employee violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act and Charleston's local fairness law -- both of which protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The complaint also claims that the manager purposefully inflicted emotional distress on Anderson.

A representative for Spirit of Halloween was not immediately available for comment.

"Things have got to change," Anderson said in the release. "Discrimination has got to stop. I want my story to help make things better for everyone, but especially for the LGBTQ community. Everyone, no matter who they are or who they love, everyone should feel safe in the community that they live in."

Anderson added that he's been concerned about going out in public. "There have been times where I didn't even want to run errands or go out in public -- to work, even -- because the anxiety of leaving the safety of my house is too much to handle."

Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, said that incidents like the one experienced by Anderson affect both the victim as well as the wider LGBTQ+ community.

"The truth is, discrimination is a real problem in our state, and that's why it's so important that we have laws on the books to protect people like Trevor," Schneider said. "We need our leaders at the Legislature and in Congress to take this seriously. No one should have to experience what Trevor did. No one should live in fear."

Attorney Ben Salango is representing Anderson for Fairness West Virginia. He filed one of the first lawsuits over anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the state, according to the organization.

"Whether its at work, applying for jobs or simply exchanging an item at a store, our friends in the LGBTQ community face intolerable discrimination," Salango said. "Spirit Halloween corporate headquarters is well aware of this incident. However, to date, there has been no apology for the outrageous and discriminatory actions of its manager. Spirit Halloween left Mr. Anderson with no alternative but to file a lawsuit."

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