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NYC transgender restroom lawsuit dismissed

NYC transgender restroom lawsuit dismissed

A New York state appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by an AIDS education group accusing its landlord of refusing to renew its lease because its transgender clients were using the building's common-area restrooms. The 4-1 majority of the state supreme court's appellate division rejected the Hispanic AIDS Forum's complaint that transgender people were being improperly excluded from the common-area restrooms. Rather, the majority wrote, the transgender people were excluded from bathrooms on the basis of their sex. The panel agreed with an earlier ruling that said bathroom exclusion based on biological "gender" rather than "self-image" is not discrimination. The forum had sued the owner of the Queens building where it had offices in 2001, alleging the landlord refused to renew its lease in May 2000 unless it kept its transgender clients out of the restrooms. In October 2003, Justice Marilyn Shafer dismissed the forum's claim of discrimination on the grounds of disability but said the forum could amend it and resubmit it to the court. She let the gender discrimination claim survive. On Tuesday the appellate division threw out the gender bias claim but said the forum could amend it and replead it before Shafer. Forum lawyer Edward Hernstadt said he and his client were considering what to do next. "Whatever we decide, we will continue to litigate this case," he said. Emanuel Gold, lawyer for the landlord, the estate of Joseph Bruno, said he argued before the appellate division in May 2004 that "if you're biologically a man, if you're born a man, then you use the men's room. There's no bias against anyone." Gold said women and girls who worked in or visited other offices in the building were startled and frightened when they found men in the women's restrooms. "I don't think there's anybody in America who doesn't understand this," he said. But Hernstadt said, "This is not a bathroom case. This is a case about whether transgender people are covered under New York State and New York City civil rights laws. This decision does a disservice to the transgender community." Gold also argued before the appeals court that the case should be dismissed because city and state antidiscrimination laws did not protect transgender people in 2000, when the lease dispute arose. After the appellate division argument last year, Hernstadt said, "A transgender woman walking into the [women's] restroom belongs there. She is a woman." (AP)

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