Judge Separates Anatomy from Gender
[NEW YORK, NY] - In a legal dispute in which a landlord objected to a tenant agency's clients using the "wrong" restrooms, a New York Supreme Court judge ruled on Thursday that a transgender person's anatomy is not relevant to gender identity. The ruling also declared that the agency, the Hispanic AIDS Forum (HAF) of New York City, did not have to turn over the names of clients or proof of birth genders, as such action would violate the HIV confidentiality rights of many of the clients.
The case, Hispanic AIDS Forum v. Estate of Joseph Bruno, is still in the information-gathering phase. Depositions will continue into February, according to the ACLU.
HAF, represented by the ACLU, filed suit in June 2001 after the landlord refused to renew the agency's lease because of complaints from other tenants that transgender HAF clients were using restrooms not associated with their physical anatomy. The landlord reportedly refused to negotiate a way to accommodate such clients, and the agency was forced to relocate.
The lawsuit contends that the owner of the Bruson Building in Jackson Heights violated state and local laws against discrimination based on sex, gender and disability. The plaintiff seeks unspecified damages, citing the financial and practical impact of the agency's relocation.
"The landlord's tactics of trying to degrade our clients by forcing them to disclose what their genitals look like and their HIV status demonstrates the contempt they have for transgendered people suffering from HIV and AIDS," said James Esseks, litigation director for the ACLU's AIDS Project.
"These rulings are a positive step in helping us correct the wrongs done to a community that has already gone through enough," he said.